Oregon Officials Voice Concerns over FDA’s Limited Vape Ban

On January 2, the FDA announced that their ban on e-cigarettes would exempt certain flavors and be limited to cartridge-based vapes, drawing criticism from both the Oregon Health Authority and Senator Jeff Merkley.  

While the terms of the ban do prohibit more notorious, “child-friendly” flavors like fruit or candy, it does not prevent the sale of menthol or tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes. Furthermore, the ban only applies to cartridge-based vaping devices — all flavors are legally available for tank-based vapes.   

“We have to protect our families,” President Trump said in his New Year’s Eve remarks. “At the same time, it’s a big industry. We want to protect the industry.”  

Originally, the Trump administration had proposed a total ban on all types of flavored e-cigarettes.   

In a press release, the OHA responded that they had “repeatedly urged the FDA to ban all flavored tobacco products, without exemptions. While we recognize FDA’s intent, the proposed enforcement action falls short of its stated goal to protect the public’s health.”   

OHA states that the exemptions “will drastically limit FDA’s effectiveness in reducing youth vaping. The most recent evidence shows that mint and menthol are among the most popular vape flavors for youth.”   

“As one of the first states to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21, Oregon still experienced a nearly 80% increase in youth e-cigarette use from 2017 to 2019. One in four Oregon 11th-graders report current use of e-cigarettes and vaping products like Juul.”  

They conclude by reaffirming their commitment to “work on decreasing the use of all vaping products and implementing Gov. Kate Brown’s Executive Order 19-09. OHA is committed to developing strong programs and policies that put protecting Oregon’s kids first – not the tobacco and vape industry.”  

Senator Merkley’s response is a good deal more scathing: “Yet again, President Trump and the FDA are going spineless in the face of corporate lobbying. The health of millions of American children will continue to suffer because of today’s announcement.  

“It’s no secret that an epidemic of youth e-cigarette addiction has been building over the course of many years. For years, e-cigarette companies have been given free rein by the FDA to pursue a massively successful strategy of addicting a new generation on nicotine, targeting middle and high school students with social media influencers and sweet flavors blatantly designed to appeal to children. We knew that the long-term health impacts of e-cigarette use would be devastating to the next generation. Now, we know in addition to the health impacts of nicotine addiction, we are facing vaping illnesses related to the additives that have contributed to multiple deaths across the country—including two in Oregon.      

“I’m deeply disturbed that industry lobbyists were able to get President Trump to gut the ban on flavors that the FDA was belatedly planning. Instead, this announcement is simply saying that FDA will target its enforcement on flavors, and even then it is carving out loopholes for tobacco and menthol flavors, and vape shops. FDA’s own announcement of preliminary data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that youth use of menthol e-cigarettes soared in 2019 after Juul stopped selling fruit flavors. Industry profits and politics should never take precedence over children’s lives and health but that’s the choice the Trump Administration is making today.”  

By Brandon Urey