FDA ban on e-cigarette flavors won’t put out vape use


Action last Thursday by the federal Food and Drug Administration to reject the applications of more than 900,000 makers of e-cigarettes and related products will not snuff out all adult use of the nicotine delivery devices, a national advocate and a Weatherford vape shop manager said.

At their meeting on Tuesday, City Council was presented with several options to regulate the sale of tobacco products, which included implementation of permits, buffer zones, and – potentially – an outright ban on flavored tobacco products in the city.

These discussions have been spearheaded by Mayor Pro Tem Blanca Pacheco and Councilman Sean Ashton, out of concern that tobacco companies are targeting a younger demographic.

The FDA’s action chiefly will result in a ban on flavored “juices” that contain the nicotine, American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley said.

“Exactly,” he said, while pointing out the agency punted on a decision regarding the most popular vape product, Juul. The Juul line is made by Altria Group, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, according to an Investopedia online company profile.

While the smoking of cigarettes has gone down, use of items such as vaping pens and e-cigarettes has increased, especially in high school settings.

Upon initial review of the presentation, Council seemed immediately receptive to the implementation of a tobacco retailer’s permit.

This would require potential retailers to obtain a permit from the city before they could sell tobacco products, and ultimately would allow the city to more easily take action – such as suspend or revoke selling privileges – should the establishment violate the conditions of the permit or the law.

The Council also seemed eager at the thought of establishing buffer zones, which would keep the sale of tobacco away from certain areas, specifically schools, day cares, or other tobacco retailers. Previously existing retailers would be grandfathered in, considered legal, non-conforming.

A ban on smoking / hookah lounges was also entertained, however would need to pass through the Planning Commission, as would the buffer zones, should the city pursue that option.

The Associated Press reported that a spike in Juul use by teens, attracted to the product’s myriad flavors, has led parents and others to pressure the FDA to ban Juul. It did not do that on Thursday, opting to target the flavored juices vape users pour into the “tanks” of their devices.

“Juul, actually, is not able to be sold in brick-and-mortar stores,” said Kaleb Griffith, manager of Breathe Easy Vapes, a mom-and-pop store on South Main Street in Weatherford.

Griffith said Juul is sold off the counters of convenience stores instead. He also acknowledged chasing teens who ignore the 6-year-old shop’s front-door sign forbidding those younger than 18, the smoking age in Texas.

“You have to have a valid age,” he said. “Everyone who looks under 40 gets ID’d in this store.”School districts have cracked down on discipline measures regarding students’ use of vaping.

According to the Weatherford ISD Student Handbook, students are “prohibited from possessing or using any type of tobacco product, electronic cigarette (e-cigarette), or any other electronic vaporizing device, while on school property at any time or while attending an off-campus school-related activity.”

Another message, next to the front door of Griffith’s business, encourages vape use as a way to stop smoking cigarettes.“Our biggest thing here is trying to get long-time smokers off of cigarettes,” he said.

That’s a premise the FDA said in it’s announcement last week is not proven.

Conley and Griffith strongly disagreed with that.“The amount of people I’ve seen it help, from 90-year-old grandmothers who smoked,” he said. “And now they are able to smell and take a breath. It’s not what you hear on the news.”

Conley cited a study published last May in the American Journal of Public Health, in which 15 past presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco ask policymakers to weigh smokers’ success at using e-cigarettes to quit long-term habits.

“Because evidence indicates that e-cigarette use can increase the odds of quitting smoking, many scientists including this essay’s authors encourage the health community, media and policymakers to more carefully weigh vaping’s potential to reduce adult smoking-attributable mortality,” the study’s abstract reads.

Conley put the FDA’s consistent antagonism toward vaping more succinctly.

“We risk leaving the adults behind,” he said.

Mille Lacs County Public Health recommended the drafting of a tobacco ordinance that would be slightly more restrictive than state statute, primarily in the way of banning flavored tobacco products. The draft ordinance also states that compliance checks will occur and that it will be a violation for any person to sell or offer to sell any licensed product to any person under the age of 21 years.

Conley urged vape users or their supporters to let their Congress members in Washington know the FDA’s net could catch adults with the minors it seeks to help. “Let them know you’re adults and these products have helped you quit smoking,” he said. “Their (adult) voices are not being heard at the FDA, unfortunately.”

Both he and Griffith said they understand laws preventing teens or younger people from having access to nicotine. “It’s (the FDA’s) biggest thing, is marketing to teens,” Griffith said. “But, with that said, adults aren’t allowed to like flavors?”

Conley said his preliminary reading of last week’s announcement indicates that straight tobacco flavored juices will remain available to consumers. Reynolds stated that she would like to see the flavored tobacco section of the ordinance removed from the draft.  Consensus among the board was to vote on the measure at the next regular board meeting.

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