The Trump Administration announced a proposal banning flavored e-cigarettes and products amid cries for stricter regulation after the death of 12 people and a mysterious pulmonary sickness that has affected over 800, as of Sept 27, 2019. New York has already announced an “emergency executive action” to ban flavored E–cigs in the state, following Michigan. In Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is instituting a state-wide sale ban tentatively lasting 4 months halting the sale of products and devices within and to the state. Attorneys general in multiple states, like Illinois, are investigating whether Juul , a leading e-cigarette manufacturer, violated consumer protection laws by marketing its products to teenagers under 18. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) slammed the makers of Juul for allegedly actively advertising to children and teens and for claiming e-cigs were safer than traditional cigarettes. The sleek and discrete styleon their products appeals to teens and young adults as both stylish and easy to disguise. The FDA has issued a warning and is ordering the company to correct its marketing, threatening fines and seizure of products.
Vaping has become increasingly popular and available, specifically with teens and young people. The purpose of vaping – also called Juuling after a top seller, Juul – and e-cigarette use is to act as a steppingstone on the path to quitting entirely. However, these devices have been used to go down the opposite path. Teens and young adults can start their “smoking” habit with these devices, though few proceed to actual cigarettes. Additionally, vaping is seen as a better choice to smoking cigarettes due to the removal of additives and chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. However,vape devices have an array of chemicals in their liquid concentrates, in addition to some containing THC. Vaping rates among high schoolers have increased by almost double from 2017 to 2018, translating to 3 million high schoolers using these devices.
This proposed policy comes on the heels of multiple deaths and mysterious illnesses, but while nothing has been done federally, states are taking it upon themselves to stop this issue before it gets out of control. Supporters of holding e-cigarette makers accountable comes from the fact that teens and young people have been the demographic negatively affected by the products. The fear of children contracting an illness related to these devices has resulted in cries for tighter regulation, overhauling of marketing practices, and extensive research.
The issue with the marketing strategy of vape manufacturers stems from critics accusing Juul of intentionally targeting youth and young adults by producing and marketing flavors including mango, cucumber, and mint. Additionally, the products were marketed as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, when e-cigarettes contain substantial levels of addictive nicotine, compounded with the chemicals found in the vapor and liquids. Due to their newness, there is little known about the devices’ safety and prolonged effects.
Stricter regulation is supported by the fact that while the legal age to buy cigarettes is 18, or 21 in some states. However, the devices and products are widely available online and occasionally do not require proof of age. Moreover, there is little regulation on products outside of the big sellers, resulting in less knowledge about the contents of such products.
In response to the Trump Administration crackdown on vaping, Juul CEO will be stepping down after accepting a proposal to ban flavored products and stop all US advertising. There is an expectation that many more cases will develop in the coming months. There are supporters for the move by law makers to halt production and use of Juul products, but such a move is also met with criticism over the swift action of something that is seen as a minor issue, compared to the inaction of larger crisis like gun violence or the opioid epidemic.
Photo by Amritanshu Sikdar