FDA issues new e-cig laws

The Food and Drug Administration took another swing at tobacco harm reduction on Thursday, with the release of new laws aimed at fighting the “teen vaping epidemic” that’s been whipped up by irresponsible activists and media. The latest regulations are centred around a ban on selling flavoured e-liquids – or any products that contain them – in most retail outlets. That’s unlikely to do much to reduce the already low rate of teen vaping, but it’s going to make it much harder for most smokers to access reduced harm products.

Under the new laws, restrictions apply to all e-liquid flavours except tobacco, menthol and mint. Other flavours – which make up most of the market – aren’t being banned, but the restrictions on where they can be sold will have pretty much the same effect.

The FDA has decreed that restricted flavours can only be sold in a separate section of the shop that under-18s can’t access. According to commissioner Scott Gottlieb this means a separate room or a walled-off area – “A curtain won’t cut it,” he said. It’s also forbidden for the products to be visible to under-18s at any time.

These requirements, along with the separate cashier needed for the flavour section, put compliance beyond the reach of most petrol stations and convenience stores. Rather than carry out expensive modifications they’re likely to cut back to selling unrestricted flavours. However, the good news for retailers is that they can still display and sell combustible cigarettes, which aren’t affected by the regulations.

Blu caves in on online sales

Fontem Ventures, a part of the Imperial Tobacco group and the manufacturer of the popular Blu range of e-cigarettes, caved in to pressure from the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday and announced a range of self-imposed restrictions on its business. The new policy is aimed at satisfying FDA demands on sales to teenagers.

Imperial, and specifically its Fontem Ventures arm, was one of five companies singled out by FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb last month in an extraordinary attack on the vapour products industry. Gottlieb demanded that the companies take steps to prevent their products being illegally sold by other people, effectively making them responsible for enforcing the law – and threatening to ban their products if they didn’t comply.

The FDA’s quarrel with Fontem Ventures centres around its popular MyBlu pod system, which has proven popular among smokers who want a simple-to-use e-cigarette. Now Fontem say they’ll impose an over-21 age policy for buying pods from their website, even in states that have a lower legal age limit, and require their retail partners to use age verification software. However, Fontem have no plans to restrict the range of flavours they sell. This is in contrast to rival Altria, which announced last week that they’re withdrawing their MarkTen pod system and most cigalike flavours until the FDA has approved them.

Indian high court shoots down vaping ban

There was some good news for vapers last week, when the Delhi High Court ruled that the Indian government’s recent “advisory” ban on all vapour products can’t be enforced on state governments. While state governments aren’t blameless when it comes to e-cig bans either, this does leave the country short of a blanket ban.

The “advisory” ban, issued on 28 August, bans the manufacture, distribution, import or sale of all electronic vapour products. It was quickly challenged on the grounds that banning a safer alternative makes no sense when tobacco cigarettes are widely and cheaply available in India, but the department of health pushed ahead anyway.

However, 48-year-old former smoker Piush Alhuwalia filed a plea at the High Court, claiming that the move violated his fundamental right to use less harmful products. While the court dismissed his plea, they did rule that the ban isn’t binding on India’s states or union territories.

JUUL changes sales policy to restrict flavours

In another piece of fallout from the new FDA rules, JUUL Labs has announced that it will be withdrawing most of its most popular flavoured pods from brick and mortar retailers and introducing more age verification measures for online sales. The move will affect mango, fruit, crème and cucumber flavour JUUL pods. The company also plans to close its Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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