Recently the FDA, and more specifically FDA Commisioner Scott Gottlieb, released a statement looking at “efforts to reduce tobacco use, especially among youth, by exploring options to address the role of flavors ‒ including menthol ‒ in tobacco products” It has completely shaken up the industry since its been dropped. It shouldn’t have been surprising, though, if one were to take the necessary time to understand the regulatory and legislative news being released by advocates and officials alike. Many of my own clients have hit me up asking for my comments on the matter, so I figured my audience had the same sentiments. Before we get to that, I think its best to analyze some of the statements made within the piece, and even before that, take time to leave a comment on the FDA’s site explaining how flavors SPECIFICALLY helped your tobacco cessation.
The thought of any child starting down a path of a lifelong addiction to tobacco, which could ultimately lead to their death, is unacceptable
The statement starts out aiming its sights on tobacco/nicotine addiction in children and teens. Many of us started smoking as a teen, and it would be foolish to think anyone would be against this notion. No one wants children or teens to use tobacco or nicotine products. No one. But this type of outlook immediately opens up questions about ADULT products.
In the spirit of our commitment to preventing kids from using tobacco, we are taking a closer look at flavors in tobacco products to better understand their level of impact on youth initiation. And as a public health agency, it’s important that we also explore how flavors, under a properly regulated framework that protects youth, may also be helping some currently addicted adult cigarette smokers switch to certain non-combustible forms of tobacco products.
This is the most important aspect of the article, and also the most difficult to decipher. On one hand, the FDA states it will do what is necessary to ensure children aren’t being allured into trying tobacco products, where on the other, understanding these flavors, that can allure those children, are helpful in aiding adults away from the dangers of tobacco. A very difficult position to be in if you’re a regulatory official. I personally believe, Gottlieb is aiming for legacy. Through many of the interviews he’s made, he seems set on creating a grand legacy for his name. He wants to be known for taking out tobacco and in a true and effective way instead of the nonsensical “abstinence” approach of yesteryear.
What makes the vaping industry quite excited about, is Gottlieb understanding that vapor products are Tobacco Harm Reduction products, and not just “tobacco products” like the old administration claimed. This places a different viewpoint on the industry from a regulatory point of view, one we haven’t seen yet. The problem, is that there is a teen usage problem. The JUUL alone is being banned from high schools left and right, which is alarming the public. It also doesn’t help that the vaping market is FULL of products like this.
In fact, there’s evidence indicating that youth tobacco users who reported their first tobacco product was flavored had a higher prevalence of current tobacco product use compared to youth whose first product was not flavored.
This is the sole basis of the FDA’s argument against flavors. They not only appeal to children, but they make them “harder to quit”. The science and numbers are there, so its not appropriate to try and fight this notion. What the vaping industry needs to do is pivot itself as NOT TOBACCO (which its not), and explain the flavors, which are also enjoyed by adults, are vital to the success of cessation.
But when it comes to flavors in non-combustible products like electronic nicotine delivery systems or e-cigarettes we recognize the issue involves additional considerations.
Definitely a start. Understanding “additional considerations” is great news. This is more than we’ve ever seen, combined, from the old FDA administration. But I’m still considerably weary.
No child should use any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. At the same time, we’re aware that certain flavors may help currently addicted adult smokers switch to potentially less harmful forms of nicotine-containing tobacco products.
This is why I’m weary. What is the in-between? Tobacco and Menthol are “adult” flavors, but what about Strawberry, Mango, Banana? What about more obscure flavors like Banana Nut Bread, Fig Green Tea, Corn Bread? Does the FDA plan to release a guideline on EVERY flavor profile under the sun? I don’t think so.
I’ve talked to ex-smokers, who’ve told me that they quit cigarettes altogether and that they now vape. And they’ve also told me it was the flavors that helped them make that transition off combustible cigarettes.
Easily the most surprising part of the statement.
…these personal stories are important to me as we shape our overall approach to smoking cessation…
It’s hard to read this and not get emotionally invested in what he’s saying, if you’re a vaper. You think he’s listening to you, and I really hope he is. But ultimately, dealing with establishment bureaucrats, this kind of “listening” is just politics and a way to lessen the coming blow. I’m not getting my hopes up, and I don’t think you should either.
It’s in my nature to completely disbelieve anything these officials say. Time and time again they lie to our faces about what’s “best for our health” only to take financial deals that benefit them and their donors. These statements are nothing but political theatre, and the vaping industry will fall for it. Mark my words. The only true thing that can make a difference in this industry at this point, is the removal or transformation of the PMTA process, or placing vapor products in a new classification. Otherwise, it’s business as usual, and this industries death gets closer and closer. Especially when the top selling e-liquids in the US, are basically rip offs of children candies. Leave your comments to the FDA, donate to your local advocacy firm, and don’t get your hopes up.