After numerous illnesses and deaths were linked to the use e-cigarettes last year, there became an even greater concern about the growing number of teens growing addicted to nicotine through the use of such devices. Opponents of the vaping industry believed tobacco and vaping companies like Juul were using flavored e-cigarette cartridges to entice kids. As a result, flavored cartridges will be banned beginning February 6, 2020. It appears teens have already found a loophole in the policy that puts flavored nicotine at their fingertips.
Juul willingly removed its flavored cartridges from the market and several states banned all flavored cartridges from being sold. Citizens and lawmakers called for greater action from the federal government, specifically, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA )to further regulate the tobacco and e-cigarette industry from targeting kids. In December, President Trump announced that the FDA would implement a new policy that would eliminate flavored e-cigarette cartridges from the market.
While the ban covers refillable cartridges like Juul, it doesn’t ban flavored nicotine sold in disposables. Disposables are pre-charged and pre-filled. They’re cheaper than refillable cartridges and available everywhere.
Brands like Puff Bar, Posh, blu and Stig can be purchased at gas stations and convenience stores. Some of these disposables are made domestically, others are imported from China. Some tout an even higher nicotine level than Juul cartridges.
According to a New York Times report, many teens have already moved on to disposables once it became clear flavored cartridges would no longer be available. Kids that became addicted to nicotine through the flavored cartridges don’t enjoy the taste of tobacco or menthol, which are the only two options left once the ban takes effect, so they’ve found another unregulated source for nicotine.
Anti-tobacco activists and lawmakers aren’t pleased with the FDA’s attempt to regulate flavored nicotine. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon told The New York Times, “Cheap, accessible, fruit-flavored vaping devices are tailor-made to ensnare children and teens. President Trump needs to grow a spine and enact the real flavor ban he promised — not this loophole-ridden version that was tailor-made to appease the vaping industry.”
For its part, the FDA says the ban was placed specifically on flavored cartridges because their data shows those are the most widely used by youth. The agency claims it doesn’t have data on the use of disposables, but will collect it and make changes to its policies as necessary.
The FDA gathers data on youth and tobacco use annually. Many anti-tobacco activists fear by the time data on disposables is collected and policy changes are made, many more kids will be left addicted to nicotine.