Vapers: New FDA guidelines will impact access to adult users

FDA publishes new flavored vaping guidelines

JOPLIN, Mo. – For the last two years, Mariah Howerton has worked at SWMO Vape Shop in Joplin, trying to help people stop smoking.

A goal she attained back in 2015 after smoking for most of her adult life.

“It was kind of a surprise to me. I received one as a gift and I was a bit skeptical, like most people, but it just stuck. I feel a lot better,” says Howerton.

Now, she’s afraid access to the same choice is being restricted for other smokers.

“Hopefully it does what they’re hoping it will do and curb underage usage, although there are people that are of age that will more than likely be sorely missing the flavors,” says Howerton.

On January 2nd, the Food and Drug Administration released new guidelines that say pre-filled pod systems can only be sold with tobacco and mint flavors, and if manufacturers don’t stop making and selling other flavors within 30 days, they will risk “enforcement action.”

The guidelines, however, don’t include flavored e-liquid that’s used in open systems, like a tank.

According to the FDA, there are five million middle and high school students who had used e-cigarettes at least once within thirty days of the National Youth Tobacco Survey. That survey also shows pod systems are the most popular among underage users.

John Venter, a pulmonologist with Mercy hospital, doesn’t think the guidelines are drastic enough to curb underage vaping.

“I don’t think any of them [e-cigarettes] are safe. I don’t think that we still have all of the final results. We know more than we did six months ago, but we still haven’t collected enough information to make an informed recommendation,” says Venter.

Venter says a big part of his opinion is based on lung illnesses that were linked to vaping in the summer of 2019.

Something the CDC has associated with vitamin E acetate in THC vape pods.

The FDA has also put out a consumer warning to stop using THC vaping products “amid ongoing investigation into lung illnesses.”

“We don’t really know at this point what the long term effects of vaping [are]. We’re talking about people getting sick before their years,” says Venter. “We don’t know that vitamin E is actually the culprit. Association is not the same as cause and effect. The prudent thing to do, from a public health standpoint, would be not to use them.”

He does, however, he’s had patients that try to go from vaping back to smoking that started getting sick.

“When they quit vaping and start smoking, they started getting sick again from smoking. And so in those instances, I do talk it over with them, and I tell them there are associated and unknown health risks with both, so if they want to modify their risk as much as they can, they will use the nicotine products, which they’re using anyway,” says Venter. “But that’s a choice that’s individual to each patient. I don’t chastise them for doing that.”

Howerton says she’s glad to see the guidelines don’t create a sweeping flavor ban, and says SWMO stopped selling pre-filled pods a while ago, so it won’t impact their businesses.

But she’s sad to see more regulations, like the legal smoking and vaping age going from 18 to 21, coming down the pipeline.

“It’s been kind of sad to see that taken away from people. People that were following the rules, and now all of a sudden that’s just not accessible,” says Howerton.

Now, Howerton says they are gearing up for May 11th, 2020, when pre-market tobacco applications are due through the FDA.

If a manufacturer doesn’t submit a PMTA by the deadline, their products will be pulled from the market.

Read the full release from the FDA here: