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The U.S. e-cigarette ban is officially in place

Enterprising teens have already found a way around the new policy

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While most of what happens in Washington, D.C. happens at a snail’s pace, it was only a matter of months after the Trump administration called for a ban on e-cigarettes that it was put to work. Effective Thursday, that plan went into effect.

The ABC’s of the policy

The essential things consumers need to know about the policy are pretty straightforward:

  • While it’s called a “ban,” it’s not a law and it’s not binding -- at least not at the moment.

  • What’s covered is the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of flavored (e.g. fruit and mint) vaping cartridges or pods. An example of those would be what Juul was offering prior to the ban.

  • Disposable vapes that use an open-tank system, and their respective flavored e-liquids, are not banned.

  • Flavored “e-liquid” that’s not packaged in a cartridge is not banned, either.

If you happen to see an e-cigarette on the market, it’s there illegally. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not given any e-cigarette manufacturer “premarket authorization” and it continues to put violators in its crosshairs. 

“Our review of premarket product applications will help evaluate the public health benefits and harms of a tobacco product to ensure that those authorized for marketing are appropriate for the protection of public health,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. 

“This will include understanding the likelihood that those who do not use tobacco products – such as kids – will start using them, as well as the likelihood that tobacco users will stop.” The FDA’s intention is to prioritize the shutdown of flavor cartridge-based vaping products. Menthol and tobacco flavors are not included in the policy.

Teens continue to be the focus

The number one goal of both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is keeping teens from falling into the e-cig trap. 

“The United States has never seen an epidemic of substance use arise as quickly as our current epidemic of youth use of e-cigarettes,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “HHS is taking a comprehensive, aggressive approach to enforcing the law passed by Congress, under which no e-cigarettes are currently on the market legally.”

To that end, the FDA just rolled out “The Real Cost,” a video campaign featuring teenagers sharing cautionary tales about their e-cigarette addiction. In one of the series, called “My Vaping Mistake,” teenagers get personal about the physical and emotional effects vaping addiction had on their lives. 

“We will not stand idly by as this crisis among America’s youth grows and evolves, and we will continue monitoring the situation and take further actions as necessary,” Azar said.

Getting around the ban

Agencies behind the ban have their work cut out for them. The New York Times reported just last week that teens have already found a loophole in the ban and are working it to their advantage.

The wrinkle in the ban? Disposable vapes.

“Students were telling me that everybody had gone to Puff Bars, which are disposable,” Lauren W. Williams, a teacher at McCracken County High School in Kentucky told the Times. “The one we confiscated here this week is Banana Ice. Students are not using Juuls anymore because no one wants menthol or tobacco.”

Possible exceptions

It’s important to note that individual states may have their own vaping bans. Two examples are North Carolina and Missouri. According to Bloomberg Government, law-enforcement agencies in two states have told stores that sell cigarettes that state enforcement of tobacco rules isn’t changing yet, even though federal law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping devices to minors. 

The reason isn’t a lack of desire. It has more to do with the layers and layers of getting statewide regulations into play. 

“You can’t just turn a battleship around on a dime,” Mike O’Connell, communications director for the Missouri Department of Public Safety, told Bloomberg.

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