FDA Looks Into Vape Illnesses, Deaths

Ohmies Vape and Glass Emporium offers a broad array of vape juices. Employees said Sept. 30 the Trump administration’s plan to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes fell through after the FDA determined the recent outbreak of lung illnesses is linked to THC cartridges, not e-cigarettes.

Though the Food and Drug Administration plans to place stricter regulations on flavored vape juice to combat the marketing of nicotine products to minors, vape shop owners and vape users have doubts that the regulations will address the issue.

The FDA is not banning flavored vape products, and further regulations will not take flavored vape juices off the market, according to a Sept. 2019 press release. If companies can prove that a specific product meets the standard expressed in legislation, then the FDA will permit the sale of that product.

Retailers that create e-liquids or vaporizers may be regulated as both manufacturers and retailers, according to the FDA. Tobacco product importers must ensure that the tobacco products they import comply with the law.

Earl Francis, owner of Smooth Vapes in Fayetteville, said that despite his shop being in a college town with a young population, most of his customers who gravitate towards the flavored vape juice are older, long-time smokers with the goal of cessation.

“I usually advise people who are trying to quit cigarettes, ‘Don’t get a tobacco flavor,’” Francis said. “I try to get them [a flavor of] their favorite snack or food.” 

Junior Robert, who is identified by only one of his names to protect his identity, has vaped regularly for the past five years. Robert does not think tighter regulations will stop young people from consuming the products, he said.

Robert thinks any extra regulations will likely strengthen the counterfeit market for Juul pods and other similar vape juice products, and minors will still probably have easy access to them by ordering online or through third-party sources, Robert said.

“I think people will do what they’re going to do either way …. They’ll probably kind of phase out of it as a fad,” Robert said of the flavored juice.

Many of the customers in Francis’ store used the flavored vape juices to make their experience less like that of cigarettes to stave off cravings, providing a less poisonous option, he said.

The White House first called for the regulations on the sale of flavored vape juice in order to fight the marketing of e-cigarettes to young people.

The Trump administration proposed a total ban in reaction to reports of “vape lung” which has now resulted in 12 deaths, mostly young people. FDA representatives said more information is needed to determine what is causing the respiratory illnesses.

Companies like Juul marketed popular vape pods with flavors like mango and watermelon, attracting many young teens and college students to their nicotine products.

When surveyed, 3.62 million middle and high school students said they were current users of e-cigarettes in 2018, according to the FDA.

Juul’s products are intended for cigarette users who are trying to stop smoking, according to Juul Labs’ official website. Juul was founded by two former smokers who wanted to improve lives by helping adults quit smoking cigarettes.

We envision a world where fewer adults use cigarettes, and where adults who smoke cigarettes have the tools to reduce or eliminate their consumption entirely, should they so desire,” Juul Labs’ official mission statement reads.

Hannah-Grace Dobbs is a staff reporter for The Arkansas Traveler.

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