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President Biden should close the Trump-era disposable e-cigarette loophole | Editorial
The FDA’s flavor restrictions do not apply to disposable e-cigarette products which have remained on the market.
Juul products are displayed at a smoke shop in New York in 2018.
Juul products are displayed at a smoke shop in New York in 2018. [ SETH WENIG | AP ]
Published Jan. 21

I am concerned that the Trump administration created a loophole for a new kind of product that is now being used in great numbers by America’s youth — disposable e-cigarettes.

Alan Brock
Alan Brock [ Courtesy of Alan Brock ]

In January 2020, the Food and Drug Administration released guidance detailing the agency’s enforcement priorities relating to Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) products. Among other things, the guidance banned flavored, cartridge-based ENDS products.

When announcing the policy, Trump administration officials claimed the actions were designed to “combat the troubling epidemic of youth e-cigarette use” while “maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential off-ramp for adults using combustible tobacco.” I agree that it is important to help adult smokers transition away from cigarettes to a less risky form of nicotine delivery, and ultimately away from nicotine altogether.

By excluding disposable products from its definition of “cartridge-based ENDS products,” the FDA’s flavor restrictions do not apply to disposable e-cigarette products which have remained on the market. Many of these disposable e-cigarettes, popular among youth, are being manufactured by unregulated foreign producers, who uses ingredients that include dangerous drugs and carcinogens.

Walk into your local corner convenience store and look across the counter. Often, you will see countless disposable e-cigarette products in flavors such as iced apple mango, strawberry and pineapple lemonade selling at an affordable price, especially for children. These disposable e-cigarettes also highlight their “sleek design” and promise their disposable e-cigarette “can be easily carried in your pocket.”

The flavors, the low cost, and the ability to conceal disposable e-cigarettes are of great appeal to youth. Luckily for parents and children, President Biden can help by directing the FDA to revise the guidance by deleting relevant footnotes, amending the guidance to prioritize enforcement to include “disposable ENDS products” and ensuring guidance applies to synthetic nicotine. But the clock is ticking.

For the future and safety of our children, I urge the president to close the loophole on disposable e-cigarettes, so that we can protect our children and end the epidemic of disposable e-cigarettes across our country.

Alan Brock is a former Wakulla County Commissioner. As a teenager, he was one of the spokespeople for the original Florida “Truth’” anti-tobacco campaign, and he spent over two decades working on anti-tobacco advocacy efforts in Florida.