The second half of 2019 has been one of the most interesting periods for news in the history of the vaping industry – and most of the news hasn’t exactly been pleasant. In the past few months, a terrible lung illness most likely caused by illicit THC vaping cartridges has been blamed on the legitimate vaping industry by an ignorant media and chief executive. Governments are banning – or threatening to ban – flavored e-liquids left and right. Amidst it all, one company has finally filed the first ever PMTA for a vaping product. If you haven’t kept up with the latest vaping news, strap yourself in because this article will make for interesting reading.
Respiratory Disease Strikes Nearly 1,500 Cannabis Vapers
Beginning in April of this year, a previously unknown lung illness has struck at least 1,479 people and claimed at least 33 lives. Every victim of the illness has vaped prior to the onset of symptoms, and most victims have admitted to using vaping cartridges filled with THC oil. A few victims have told authorities that they used no illegal substances, although it was later found that some of those people were not telling the truth. Either way, many mainstream media outlets have reported about the illness without making any distinction between cannabis vaping and e-liquid vaping – and that has created a great deal of hysteria among people who don’t understand that the term “vaping” means very different things to different people.
The lung illness is a form of lipoid pneumonia with no underlying infectious cause. It’s caused by oil deposits that settle in the lungs and are attacked by the body’s immune system. Although authorities are still investigating the disease to determine its root cause, it presently seems likely that Vitamin E acetate – an extremely popular diluting agent and thickener for black market THC oil cartridges – is the root cause. Authorities have urged people to stop using THC oil vaping cartridges while the investigation is ongoing.
Trump Threatens Nationwide E-Liquid Flavor Ban
On September 11, President Donald Trump held a televised press conference in which he announced his intention to have the FDA ban all flavored e-liquids except those designed to taste like tobacco. Trump’s statements during the press conference – particularly when he said that “people are dying with vaping” – suggested that the President had little understanding of what vaping was or how e-liquid and cannabis vaping differed from one another.
At the time of writing, it has been five weeks since Trump’s press conference, and nothing more has been said about the flavor ban. It’s unknown whether Trump still intends to follow through with the plan. Rumor has it that Trump’s allies in the Republican party have pointed out an interesting fact: In many of the most important swing states, the number of people who vape vastly outnumber the margins by which Trump won or lost during the 2016 election. If Trump bans e-liquid flavors – and vapers in the swing states vote against him out of spite – he will almost certainly lose in 2020.
Trump hasn’t mentioned the flavor ban again since his original announcement.
Curious about the potential effect that an e-liquid flavor ban – or an all-out ban on vaping – would have on public health and the American economy? This infographic from E-Cigarette Empire does an excellent job of summarizing the likely results of a vaping ban.
Courts Halt Two Statewide E-Liquid Flavor Bans – For Now
In addition to the potential nationwide e-liquid flavor ban proposed by President Trump, some states and localities have attempted to put their own flavor bans in place. In at least two states, however, courts have put a stop to the bans – for now, at least.
In Michigan, a state judge granted a temporary injunction in favor of the state’s vape shop owners, noting that the flavor ban would do irreparable harm to small businesses. In addition, the reasons cited by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer for putting the “emergency” flavor ban in place were available to her several months before she put the ban in place, thus negating the “emergency” portion of the declaration. The court order came after the flavor ban had been in effect for about two weeks. Governor Whitmer vowed to appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.
A comparable story is developing in New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a similar ban on flavored e-liquids and faced similar pushback from a state appellate court. Cuomo’s administration – and the Vapor Technology Association – will present their cases before the New York Supreme Court on October 18.
These stories are still developing, and the final decisions made by the New York and Michigan Supreme Courts may set legal precedents for other states and cities that have imposed – or are considering imposing – similar e-liquid flavor bans. For now, at least, lower courts have recognized that the bans would leave small businesses with millions of dollars of unsellable products on their hands and could potentially cause hundreds of thousands of vapers to return to tobacco products.
Vuse Becomes First E-Cigarette Brand to Submit PMTA to FDA
The FDA’s requirement that all companies in the American vaping industry submit pre-market applications for all of their products by May 2020 is an undue burden that, unless it’s successfully challenged, will result in the destruction of the vaping industry as we know it. Make no mistake, though; several vaping brands – even a few brands that you might think of as “smaller businesses” – actually have millions of dollars in reserve and are already preparing their PMTAs.
On October 11, Reynolds American became the first company to submit a PMTA for a vaping product. That product is the Vuse e-cigarette. Vuse was the leading mainstream e-cigarette by a small margin until the JUUL brand appeared and blindsided the industry. If the brand makes it through the PMTA process successfully, it will become the first e-cigarette to gain full FDA marketing approval. The Vuse PMTA is more than 150,000 pages in length.