Michigan becomes the first state in the country to ban the sales of e-cigarette flavouring, joining the city of San Francisco, as it becomes more and more blatant that flavoured e-cig juices are intended to entice teenagers.
The federal government and states ban the sale of vaping products to minors, yet government survey figures show that last year, one in five U.S. high school students reported vaping in the previous month. Top government health officials, including the surgeon general, have flagged the trend as an epidemic.
“This is a health crisis that we’re confronting, and it would never be permitted if it was cigarettes. We’re letting these companies target our kids, appeal to our kids and deceive our children,” Whitmer told reporters. Michigan’s chief medical executive determined that youth vaping constitutes a public health emergency.
Man, this is insane on this e-cig graphic I pulled up online of some e-cigarette flavours — pancake mix, strudel, watermelon bubble gum, blueberry, and Rice Krispie treats.
Wait … RICE KRISPIE TREATS?
Rice Krispie Treats. And you’re telling me these AREN’T being used to entice kids? Seriously? When I see shit like this, I have ZERO sympathy for the e-cig industry and the regulatory morass that is coming for them. They literally BEGGED for it. Jesus. Are people using e-cigs to quit smoking REALLY wanting pancake mix and Rick Krispie Treat flavoured e-cigs?
From the AP story:
Nearly 80% of underage teenagers who use e-cigarettes and other tobacco products cited flavors when asked why they took up the habit, according to government research.
Think about that. 80 percent. See if any other jurisdictions start banning e-cigarette flavouring.
Wow, this really interesting. This story blew me away. Apparently, some state and federal agencies and some state attorneys general looking into the company’s marketing practices. Could this be the fall of mighty Juul?
The attorneys general of Washington, D.C. and Illinois (and four other states) are investigating just how Juul became so popular with teens, literally within months of Juuls hitting the market.
I know one thing Juul did was very smartly (in an evil way) use Instagram and other social media to market Juul to mostly young people … who are on Instagram. I also know they totally came out of NOWHERE to completely dominate the e-cig market (they control about 75 percent of the market).
A senior Illinois law enforcement official described to the Associated Press a wide-ranging inquiry being conducted by the office of Illinois Atty. Gen. Kwame Raoul that is centered on whether Juul violated state consumer fraud laws and other statutes by designing and marketing its products to appeal to underage teens. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
Marrisa Geller, a spokeswoman for District of Columbia Atty. Gen. Karl Racine, confirmed in an emailed statement that an investigation of Juul is underway. She said Racine is concerned about “the dramatic increase in the use of vaping products by district youth” as well as the policies and practices employed by e-cigarette manufacturers to prevent minors from using their products.
The attorneys general in Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts have announced investigations of Juul related to concerns over underage use of its products. North Carolina’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against Juul in May, asking a court to limit the company’s sales and marketing in the state.
I’m wondering here just how much shit Juul is actually in, but it sounds like possibly a lot. It sounds like there could be RICO statutes involved. This trouble isn’t going to go away anytime soon and it certainly begs the question of whether this might be the beginning of the end for the company.
Interestingly, Juul actually donated $3,000 to the election campaign of the attorney general of Illinois, but he refused it on ethical grounds. Good for him.
Juul also has a bottomless pit of financing to fight the attorneys general. Remember, they are partly owned by Altria, which owns Philip Morris and Marlboro cigarettes.
I’ll definitely be keeping on eye on this story to see if anything comes of it.
“First of all, I’d tell them that I’m sorry that their child’s using the product,” said Kevin Burns, who joined Juul in late 2017. “It’s not intended for them. I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them. As a parent of a 16-year-old, I’m sorry for them, and I have empathy for them, in terms of what the challenges they’re going through.”
Oh, baloney, Kevin Burns, especially his bullshit about “I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them.”
Juul was one of the vaping companies that most aggressively and successfully used social media to advertise its products, including Instragram “influencers.” Jull very quickly came to dominate the e-cig industry, gaining control of over 70 percent of the industry. This guy Burns is so full of it. He apologized because he got called to testify before congress and because lawsuits are piling up against Juul over addicting kids to nicotine (it turns out Juul pods are considerably more powerful with higher amounts of nicotine than other e-cig companies). This really takes the cake as one of the phoniest “apologies” I’ve ever seen. The L.A. Times even wrote an op-ed piece called, “Let’s call it a Juuling epidemic.”
Yet Juul’s critics point to the company’s initial advertising campaign, which featured bright colors and young looking models, as evidence that Juul fueled the surge in teen vaping. Co-founder Adam Bowen said in retrospect the ads were “inappropriate.”
“When we launched Juul, we had a campaign that was arguably too kind of lifestyle-oriented, too flashy,” he said. “It lasted less than six months. It was in the early days of the product introduction. We think it had no impact on sales.”
The Campaign for Smokefree Kids thought the same of Burns’ apology as I did.
Once again, Juul is following the tobacco industry’s playbook: Proclaim loudly that they don’t want kids to use their product, while never admitting that their marketing targeted and attracted kids. Like its partner Altria, Juul still refuses to admit that the company’s marketing targeted kids or has played a major role in youth use of its e-cigarettes – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
This is a deceptive, self-serving gesture by Juul given their complete refusal to take responsibility for creating the youth e-cigarette epidemic. It is a blatant attempt to deflect attention from the company’s wrongdoing while it opposes meaningful government regulation to prevent it from continuing to addict kids. There can be no doubt about Juul’s role in the current youth epidemic: It marketed a sleek, cool, high-tech product that comes in sweet flavors that appeal to kids, delivers a massive dose of nicotine that can quickly hook kids and was launched with social media marketing that a Stanford study found was patently youth-oriented.
This is one more example that Juul is more interested in repairing its image and expanding its sales than preventing youth use. Juul is following the tobacco industry’s playbook to the letter: Addict kids, deny responsibility for doing so, run slick PR campaigns to fool policy makers and the public, and fight real solutions to the problem.
Long time since an update. I have been very busy and spend most of my spare time outdoors, hiking and trying to get back in shape this summer.
So, there’s a TON to catch up on. I will try to do this over the next few days.
First things first
Mysterious vaping illnesses
At least 150 teenagers around the U.S. have been admitted to emergency rooms with some mysterious lung disease caused by vaping.
They weren’t necessarily vaping tobacco; some of the teens were vaping marijuana.
The one common thread between all the illnesses. All of the victims were vaping. The other common thread, most of them appeared to have bought their vaping products on the street rather than legally through a store.
“One patient came in with full respiratory collapse and essentially had to be on life support,” said Dr. Jacob Kaslow, a pediatric pulmonary fellow at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville.
Kaslow told NBC News that his hospital has treated four cases of vaping-related respiratory illness over the past six months. Tracking the cases has been tricky, as patients tend to have a variety of symptoms, including severe pneumonia and coughing up blood.
“We’re only discovering this now because we’re asking, ‘is there any history of vaping or electronic cigarette use?'” said Kaslow.
No deaths have been reported. But some patients have developed severe, progressive lung disease, and have required ongoing mechanical breathing assistance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with states to try to pinpoint an e-cigarette ingredient, e-liquid, device or purchase method linking all of the cases.
It’s unclear whether there was some kind of contamination of the devices or e-liquids that led to the 149-plus cases.
Some patients reported buying their vapes off the street.
“The evidence continues to point to street-bought vaping cartridges containing THC or synthetic drugs as being the cause of these illnesses,” Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, wrote in a statement to NBC News.
So, again, lots of questions about vaping and the contaminants that are found in vaping fluids. This isn’t the first illness tied to vaping. Vaping is already believed to be tied to a disease known as “popcorn lung” (the name comes from the fact that it was first tied to workers in popcorn factories).
Even with FDA chief Scott Gottlieb stepping down, the agency went ahead this week with its new rules regulating the sales of e-cig products — the big change being the banishment of most fruity flavours.
From now on, only menthol-flavoured cigarettes will be allowed.
Sales of e-cig products will also be restricted to “adult areas” in stores. I have no idea, and I think few people do, how exactly this would work. It sounds like it could literally be a storage closet in the back with a curtain. This was a huge step back from the proposal put forward by Gottlieb a few months ago. He originally proposed that e-cig sales would be restricted solely to tobacco shops, not convenience stores. I liked that idea, because there’s about 1/10th as many tobacco shops as convenience stores.
But, the convenience store industry balked at that and now we have this hybrid policy that no one knows how is going to work.
Unfortunately, with Gottlieb stepping down and a very pro-industry Trump administration in power at the moment, I remain cynical whether the FDA will actually go through with these regulations. Don’t be shocked if this all gets mysteriously dropped in the next few weeks. Gottlieb was a huge advocate (in the Trump administration, weird, huh) against teen smoking and teen vaping. Teen vaping has in particular skyrocketed the past five years, as the largely unregulated vaping industry was absolutely brazen about using friuity, kiddie flavours like bubble gum and Sprite and marketing their products to teens very much like the tobacco industry did 30 and 40 years ago.
Well, this is progress, I wonder if it will have any effect.
The FDA announced that it will soon ban the sale of e-cig flavourings at minimarts. This is in response to the rapid rise of e-cig use by teenagers. The FDA warned a few weeks ago that it was cracking down on e-cigs because of the epidemic of teen e-cig use. So, this is apparently step one.
Also, cartridge-based e-cig products like Juuls will no longer be allowed to be sold at convenience stores. Sales will be limited to tobacco and vaping shops. Juuls are relatively news, they’ve only been around a year or two, but their use has exploded (not literally) among teens.
That seriously limits the venues that e-cig flavours and Juuls will be sold at — basically from millions of convenience stores around the country to about 10,000 estimated tobacco and vaping stores. It won’t stop kids from trying to buy them, but will make it harder. And tobacco and vaping stores are more regulated than convenience stores.
The FDA, and this is a big one I think, is also going to impose more rules and regulations on online sales of vaping products, requiring stricter standards for age verification. Today, any kid with their own debit card can just click on “yes, I’m 18” on most of these sites.
Will these be enough to stop the epidemic of kids using e-cigs? Only time will tell, but the FDA suggested this is just the beginning of the steps that it plans to crack down on the industry and its lax attitude toward teen vaping.
From an NBC News article on the FDA’s move:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that adult smoking rates have dropped to their lowest level yet, at 14 percent. But the CDC found that 47.4 million U.S. adults , or 19 percent of the adult population, uses any tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, or e-cigarettes.
Public health experts have been complaining that the fruity, candy-like flavors found in e-cigarettes are targeted directly at children and teenagers, and rates of teen cigarette use have soared.
The FDA has also expressed concern about online sales to teens. In September, the FDA made an unannounced visit to Juul headquarters to look for evidence about the company’s marketing practices. In April, the agency launched what it called a “blitz” to stop retailers from selling vaping products to underage children. And it has warned several online sites about sales.
Next week, the FDA will do more, the official said.
“We’re also going to restrict online sales only to sites that put in place specific age verification measures and limit access to kids that we are going to specify in guidance,” the official said.
“This is just the first step. We will consider other steps if use doesn’t come down, and sharply.”
Tobacco advocates question if the FDA is going far enough.
Public health groups including the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Truth Initiative and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, have been urging the FDA to move faster and to remove Juul from the market until it undergoes an FDA review.
“To reverse the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, the FDA needs to stop the sales of all flavored e-cigarette products that have not been subject to public health review by the FDA as the law requires,” the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Truth Initiative said in a joint statement.
“There is nothing to prevent the number of vape shops from rapidly expanding and there is no solid evidence that vape shops do a good job of preventing illegal underage sales. In addition, youth use of e-cigarettes is not limited to Juul and other pod-type products. Even before the introduction of Juul, e-cigarettes had become the most commonly used tobacco product among kids and research found that 81 percent of youth who ever tried e-cigarettes started with a flavored product.”
Is this the beginning of the end for e-cigs in the U.S..?
It sounds like a hammer might be coming down very soon, one way or the other.
The FDA is really ratcheting up the rhetoric level against e-cigarettes this week, with FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb saying new data that is soon coming out is showing that the problem of e-cigarette use by teens has grown far worse.
They sound serious. I get a little jaded that the FDA will do anything about nicotine products, but I’ve never seen such strong governmental rhetoric against e-cigarettes before.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency will soon release data that show a “substantial increase” in youth vaping this year compared with 2017. He said the problem had reached “epidemic proportion.”
“I have grown increasingly concerned around what we see as rising youth use in these products, and I’m disappointed in the actions the companies have taken to try to address this,” Gottlieb said in an interview.
The FDA told five major e-cigarette manufacturers Wednesday to come up with ways to address youth use in 60 days or the agency could require them to stop selling flavored products that appeal to children. The products being targeted are: Juul, Altria Group Inc.’s MarkTen, Fontem Ventures’s blu, British American Tobacco’s Vuse and Logic.
Whoa, 60 days, so that will be mid-November.
And they’re going after the big boys. Blu, Vuse, MarkTen are about 75 percent of the e-cig market, not counting Juuls.
This new sense of urgency toward e-cigs appears to be driven somewhat by concerns over the exploding use of Juuls. Juuls are a relatively new kind of e-cig that look like a flash drive and are powered by actually plugging them into a laptop computer. They’re incredibly popular with kids.
From the Bloomberg article:
“This could result in a bullet through the head of Juul, the driver of youth initiation,” said Nico von Stackelberg, an analyst with Liberum in London.
To gain clearance to return to the market, the companies would have to prove that the benefits to adults who use e-cigarettes to stop smoking outweigh the risks associated with youth vaping.
“I certainly am in possession of evidence that warrants that,” Gottlieb said. He declined to disclose the evidence.
Of the 3.6 million middle- and high-school students who said in 2017 they are current tobacco-product users, 2.1 million used e-cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There is no question that a lot of the youth use is being driven by Juul,” Gottlieb said.
“Juul was a game changer,” said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. He listed three reasons the company became so successful: It figured out how to deliver high levels of nicotine in a way that wasn’t harsh; it packaged the product in a streamlined, clever way; and it developed a social media and advertising campaign that made a Juul e-cigarette “cool and hip.”
Keep in mind, this issue here isn’t that e-cigs are as bad as cigarettes. But,they are a nicotine-delivery system and they are effectively getting teenagers physically addicted to nicotine. And nicotine addiction is a bad thing in of itself, regardless of the delivery system. And the issue here is e-cig companies have been BRAZENLY marketing e-cig products to kids for years. I know I’ve been railing about it for years.
The FDA is warning e-cigarette companies in a letter sent out earlier this month to stop making their products look like candy.
This has been one of the big battles against the fledglinge-cig industry — candy-flavoured products. Candy-flavoured products marketed as candy-flavoured products. And most of all, candy-flavoured products that the industry insists are not designed for underaged users.
Some of these products have names like Smurf Sauce, Twirly Sour Patch kids and Nilla Wafers.
Are you seriously going to try to convince me that any product with the word “Smurf” in it is actually being marketed to adults?
The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission sent 13 letters Tuesday to companies that make and sell the liquids used in e-cigarettes, warning them for using false and misleading labeling and advertising. The nicotine products resemble juice boxes, whip-cream canisters and well-known candy and cookie packages like Sour Patch Kids and Nilla Wafers.
The move follows an FDA sting operation that resulted in 40 warning letters last week to retailers that sold kids Juul e-cigarettes, the latest craze in underage tobacco use.
The FDA has given e-cigarette makers extra time to comply with certain e-cigarette regulations and is attempting to rein in youth use while it learns more about the products. Antismoking advocates have criticized the agency for not moving to ban flavors in tobacco products. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said he wants to take a balanced approach to help adults who enjoy the flavors switch from regular cigarettes to vaping.
“Companies selling these products have a responsibility to ensure they aren’t putting children in harm’s way or enticing youth use, and we’ll continue to take action against those who sell tobacco products to youth and market products in this egregious fashion,” Gottlieb said in a statement.
The agency plans “a series of escalating actions” as part of a new plan to prevent youth tobacco use, Gottlieb said.
FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in a telephone briefing with reporters, said that it would be hard for “any reasonable person” to examine the products and not conclude that “they are deliberately being packaged and marketed in a way that is designed to not only be appealing to kids” but also to confuse them by mimicking items they frequently consume.
So, something is supposed to hit the fan within three weeks. I’ll be keeping track of this.
I hate to say it. I try to avoid partisan politics on this page, but I am not a fan of Donald Trump and his administration, but I have to admit, this Scott Gottlieb *appears* to actually take his job seriously. I say “appears” because I am by nature a cynical person and I will await to see if the rubber meets the road with him, so to speak.
But, Jesus Christ on a cracker, e-cig flavours based on Oreo cookies, “Smurf sauce” and “Cookies & Milk” and you’re actually going to sit there with a straight face and try to convince me these are products designed for adults? C’mon!