Today, the FDA released final guidance regarding the sale and availability of nicotine vapor products on the market across the United States. Beginning soon, the agency will force the removal of “closed system” nicotine vapor products that contain disposable “pods” and “cartridges” in over 150,000 retail locations. Exempt from immediate prohibition are products largely sold by thousands of vape shops, where adults can purchase a variety of flavored products and devices to customize their vaping experience.
In September in the midst of an unknown lung illness outbreak, President Donald Trump and Secretary Alex Azar announced that all flavored products would be removed from the market. At the time, Americans for Tax Reform raised the alarm and outlined the dire health consequences of prohibition and the potential electoral punishment that would result should a full ban be implemented. Based on polling conducted in part by ATR in 2016 and then in October by Trump pollster John McLaughlin, we argued that a significant voter bloc in the 2020 election would be the “vaper voter.” That message resonated, with reports that Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale agreed with ATR’s vaper voter case so much so that he weighed in with the White House urging them to reconsider a ban.
Since September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that all of the products tested from patients who had become ill from “vaping” contained a substance known as Vitamin E acetate. This additive is used by drug dealers on the black market to “cut” THC and marijuana vapor products and is not present in legal nicotine products subject to the Trump administration’s new ban on pod and cartridge systems.
ATR’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Paul Blair, had this to say of the new FDA guidance on vaping:
“This fight should have never been necessary. The overreaction by nanny-state activists and the misrepresentation of the truth about the cause of teen vaping from some within the administration in September led the President into months of wasted time on an issue best addressed through sensible regulation and legislation on Capitol Hill. More than 10,000 small mom and pop businesses had to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas without any sort of clue about whether they’d have to let their employees go during the Holidays.
Fortunately, these small businesses have been spared, for now. The President heard many vapers’ concerns and implemented a compromise position after an unprecedented amount of consideration was given to both anti-vaping activists and sensible small business advocates.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that removing so many disposable and closed system vapor products from the market is that the very places where these reduced risk products were once available is where smokers can still buy any cigarette that they want. Smokers deserve choices, should they choose to quit. America’s 34 million smokers will have fewer options, which may lead to fewer ever trying to quit with products that are at least 95% less harmful.
President Trump does deserve great praise for acknowledging the importance and health advantage of a smoker transitioning to an e-cigarette, an acknowledgement that never came from President Obama, who once smoked cigarettes. I hope that the current President understands that the pending May deadlines for submitting applications for every other business not impacted by this decision still present a real threat of prohibition given how complex and expensive the application process is. The FDA must immediately issue clarifying guidance on how small firms that sell flavored vapor products are supposed to make it through a regulatory process that has only ever worked for actual tobacco products.
Vapor products are the most successful quit-smoking tool to have ever existed. It would be a shame if they largely ceased to exist at the end of the historically successful Trump administration because some of his trusted advisors were taking direction from the likes of Mike Bloomberg.”