Is the FDA About to Regulate E-Juice Flavors?

“Certain flavors are generally recognized as appealing to youth,” says the agency


The FDA Center for Tobacco Products is about to ask for public comment on flavored e-liquid, and the agency appears to be following the tobacco control party line that maintains that some flavors are geared toward teenagers.

A draft of the agency’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) is working its way toward publication by the FDA in the Federal Register. No one is certain if the language currently in the document will change before the final call for comment is issued.

Evidence shows that flavored tobacco products, especially those that are sweet or are described with terms attractive to kids, appeal to youth and also shows that youth may be more likely to initiate tobacco use with such products. Evidence also shows that the presence of flavors in some non-combustible tobacco products may play a role in helping some tobacco users transition away from combusted tobacco products, which are likely the most harmful currently marketed form of nicotine delivery for an individual user. This ANPRM will seek information on how it might regulate flavors in tobacco products to limit appeal to youth while taking into account the potential role that some flavors may play in helping some users transition away from combusted products. Certain flavors are generally recognized as appealing to youth, such as gummy bear and cotton candy, while others, such as coffee and cinnamon, may not be as obvious. In this notice, FDA would request information on how best to regulate flavors in tobacco products to limit appeal to youth and prevent youth initiation and use of tobacco products.

Once the ANPRM is published, there will be a set period during which public comment is solicited. It is crucial that vapers and vape manufacturers and retailers respond in numbers. This is certainly the most important proposed rule that vapers have the knowledge to affect.

How the FDA approaches the issue of flavors may determine whether the independent vaping industry lives or dies. Flavored e-liquid essentially is the vaping industry. And the preliminary version of the wording is clearly slanted toward the assumption that some flavors are “marketed to youth.”

“Certain flavors are generally recognized as appealing to youth, such as gummy bear and cotton candy,” says the document. And the generally accepted talking point for anti-vapers is that some flavors are only used by kids. They apparently believe that it’s a good business strategy to markets and sell adult products illegally to underage customers — which, of course, would be an impossible business plan.

Your voice is about to be very, very important to the future of vaping.

Lots of people in tobacco control believe that. Even many of the ones who accept that vaping can be useful to help smokers quit don’t believe that flavors other than tobacco need to be available to adults. Some of these influential people apparently think that unflavored e-liquid tastes like tobacco.

But there’s no need to allow the assumptions of a few ignorant anti-vaping zealots to carry the day. This is going to be our chance to shape this regulation. Vapers are the experts on vaping. We know the kinds of flavors we like. And the companies that make e-liquid and sell it know what flavors their customers buy. This information needs to flood the FDA rulemaking conversation.

Vaping360 will certainly cover this in more detail when the ANPRM is formally announced — and we’ll ask industry and consumer advocates for advice on what to include in comments. But start thinking now about what you want to tell federal regulators about vaping flavors. Your voice is about to be very, very important to the future of vaping.

Jim McDonald

I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.

  • Mark Allsopp

    They’re all important. All flavours become dull after a day or so, so need all the variety we can get. What does it mean by cereal though ? Cornflakes ? Have I been missing out on something ?

    • Jeremy

      Hey Mark, thanks for stopping by again.

      Have you not had cereal juice? Everything from Trix to Fruit Loops to Fruity Pebbles exists in eliquid. Like all juice, some are good and others are not. But the good ones are… yeah, they’re good! Cereal juices aren’t as big these past couple years, but 2015 they were everywhere.

      • Mark Allsopp

        No, but you can sure bet I’ll be on the lookout now !

  • Antonio Toscano

    rather they should regulate the names not the flavors …. it is silly to think that it prevents young people from entering the cigar, because the cigar is another product totally different from the vaporizer …. the flavors are great I am 50 years old and they love all the flavors …. ONLY REGULATE THE NAMES .. I smoked 60 cigarettes a day for 35 years, today I am without tobacco and with 1 mg of nicotine after 1 year and a half of vaping and I am happy and never … … I WOULD NEVER RETURN TO TOBACCO ….. I have never used a liquid taste tobacco

    • Jim McDonald

      Well, regulating the names is silly too — also probably illegal.

      • Antonio Toscano

        not my friend, I’m not talking about changing the names of the brands, if not of the products, for example the gummy bear, for example putting rabid bear, that is not illegal and children do not receive the message

        • Jim McDonald

          No name is illegal in the United States, and there’s zero evidence that kids get any “message” from such names. But the FDA does not care about the names and labels; they actually care about the flavors themselves. The issue you describe is one that lives solely in the minds of vapers. The people who want vaping stopped have hated flavors since before they had names or labels.

  • Here’s my issue with this. It’s already ILLEGAL for children to vape. Why not enforce the law already on the book? Common sense should prevail here.

    • Jim McDonald

      Exactly! If there are vape shops or online retailers that are intentionally breaking the law, shut them down. Problem solved.

  • sam

    As a vape shop employee, I take carding very seriously, no ID no sale. This should be a concept across the board whether it be a retail location or online. Let those shops who sell to underage people get fined or shut down. I personally feel like the issue mostly relies on online sales, most online distributors do not have any way to age verify the person buying it.

    • Jim McDonald

      There isn’t much of an issue. I think most dedicated vaping businesses — online or B&M — are very cautious about who they sell to, and that is borne out in the small number of citations the FDA has issued to vape shops and online retailers.