The flavored vape problem is still happening

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FLAVORED VAPES ARE BACK — While top tobacco regulators dawdle over the e-cigarette industry’s fate, another class of vape is quietly restocking the market with unregulated, flavored products — and it’s drawing in a growing number of kids, POLITICO’s Katherine Ellen Foley writes.

The problem? To users, these vapes are identical. But because of an obscure loophole, they skirt the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory umbrella. Unlike traditional cigarette and vape products that contain tobacco-derived nicotine — an addictive stimulant — these vapes contain lab-made nicotine.

That difference puts synthetic vapes beyond the FDA’s reach, which means that manufacturers freely sell fruity- or dessert-flavored products popular among teens. While these products are only legally available to adults over 21, that hasn’t stopped teens before: A 2021 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 28.6 percent of middle and high school students who vape used a synthetic nicotine brand called Puff Bar.

“Whatever drops in the bucket they’ve made to try to combat youth e-cigarette use, synthetic nicotine has completely undermined it,” Natalie Hemmerich, a senior staff attorney at the Public Health Law Center, who focuses on federal tobacco policy, said.

The FDA insists it’s looking into the issue, but it’s a growing concern for antismoking advocates and lawmakers.

Puff Bar pivoted to synthetic — or tobacco-free — nicotine in early 2021, after the FDA ordered it to stop selling its tobacco-derived flavored products in 2020.

The backstory: Patrick Beltran, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Puff Bar, said the move is meant to serve their adult customers looking for an alternative to cigarettes.

“Adults like the flavors,” he said. “Just because we have flavors doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re marketing to kids.”

Beltran said that if kids are using his product, it’s because vendors aren’t checking their age or they’re getting it from someone else.

“It’s like kids, now, and how they get alcohol,” he said. “You go to any high school party, there’s gonna be alcohol there.”

Read full article here.

Sarah Owermohle – Politico – 2022-02-07.

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