The FDA will ban sales of closed-system vaping products like JUUL in flavors except tobacco and menthol in convenience stores and gas stations, according to the Washington Post. The Post also reports that anonymous FDA sources say the agency will impose additional age verification requirements for online sales, although these aren’t specified.
Many vapers and probably millions of smokers don’t live near dedicated vape shops, and depend on being able to buy products in c-stores or online. It’s not clear how the agency will legally justify preventing convenience stores and gas stations from selling the most popular vaping products.
Vaping360 has learned that JUUL Labs will discuss the potential changes with its distributors today, although the company had no comment on what steps it would take.
In September, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned JUUL Labs and the four tobacco companies that also make vapor products to present plans within 60 days to eliminate underage sales of their products. Monday marks the end of the 60-day period. The Post reports that the FDA will announce its actions next week.
Gottlieb, who has gone on a rampage over the supposed teenage vaping “epidemic,” has made it clear that he expects the manufacturers of pod vapes and other products popular in c-stores to change their sales and marketing practices. The FDA boss has already threatened to ban flavored products from c-stores and gas stations.
In the FDA’s letters to JUUL Labs and the other manufacturers on Sept. 12, the agency offered several suggestions that the vape companies should consider:
In fact, the FDA chief has threatened every possible FDA action, including a c-store ban, online sales restrictions, and eliminating non-tobacco flavors. The agency is already in the process of making rules on e-liquid flavors.
Altria announced on Oct. 25 that it would remove its flavored vaping products (other than tobacco, mint and menthol) from the market immediately, which was intended to pressure JUUL to do the same. Altria’s primary business is selling cigarettes, and JUUL became a thorn in the Marlboro maker’s side as it began to grab market share by converting smokers.
Unlike Altria, Imperial Brands, Japan Tobacco, and RJ Reynolds, JUUL only sells vapor products. It can’t fall back on cigarette sales if the FDA decides to reverse its decision to postpone the deadline for premarket review of existing vapor products. If the FDA demands premarket tobacco applications immediately for all existing products on the market, the independent vaping industry would be dead in its tracks, and even JUUL would be forced to wait for approval from an agency that has shown itself to be antagonistic to vapor products.
The c-store restrictions the FDA will announce next week are a gift to the cigarette manufacturers, and a punch in the gut for vapers who depend on c-stores, and for smokers who might consider trying vapes. The c-store ban might seem like a favor to vape shops, but it’s not. The FDA is still working hard to come up with flavor restrictions that will badly hurt and possibly kill vape shops.
Now the stream of customers who try c-store vapes like pods and cigalikes, and then graduate to open-systems products they buy in vape shops, will dwindle. Every restriction on availability of flavored vaping products hurts the entire vaping industry — and vapers and smokers.