The Food and Drug Administration’s new e-cigarette limits are set to take some sweet and fruit-flavored products off the U.S. market next week but they won’t restrict sales of disposable e-cigarettes that come in flavors such as cherry crush, watermelon and pineapple lemonade.
NJOY Holdings Inc., which makes the best-selling disposable e-cigarette, the NJOY Daily, has decided to voluntarily halt sales of its fruit-flavored products as lawmakers and antivaping advocates raise concerns that young people might migrate to the throwaway devices.
The FDA’s new policy, released Jan. 2, states that the flavor restrictions don’t apply to “completely self-contained, disposable products.”
Disposable e-cigarettes represent about 3% of e-cigarette sales in stores tracked by Nielsen, according to Wells Fargo. Unlike market leader Juul Labs Inc.’s pod-based vaporizers, these devices can’t be refilled or recharged.
The NJOY Daily disposable e-cigarette is slim and cylindrical, similar to the shape of a cigarette. It comes in flavors such as tropical twist and apple melon. Priced at $5.99 apiece on the company’s website and sold in gasoline stations and convenience stores, it represents roughly 13% of the company’s sales.
NJOY is better known for its pod-based e-cigarette, NJOY Ace, whose popular watermelon and blueberry refills will be barred under the FDA’s new policy. Fruity flavors account for about 70% of the company’s sales.
The company will stop shipping all products except those formulated to taste like tobacco or menthol once the FDA’s restrictions take effect next week, according to a person familiar with the matter.
E-cigarette makers must submit for agency review by May any products they want to sell in the U.S. beyond that point. They can also apply to bring fruit-flavored products back on the market. NJOY plans to submit applications for its fruit-flavored Ace and Daily disposable products, the person said.
In anticipation of the FDA’s flavor restrictions and under fire for contributing to a surge in underage vaping, market leader Juul last year voluntarily stopped selling its sweet and fruit-flavored refill pods. Juul doesn’t sell disposable e-cigarettes.
Other makers of disposable e-cigarettes include Fontem Ventures, a subsidiary of
PLC, whose cigarette-shaped blu Disposable sells online for $7.99 each and comes in flavors such as vivid vanilla, polar mint and cherry crush.
Fontem said it markets its products only to adult smokers and uses online age-verification tools to prevent sales to minors. “These products are not being used by youth—which is why the FDA exempted them,” a spokesman said.
Some disposable brands, such as Stig and Puff Bar, are reminiscent of Juul’s USB-stick shape. Some industry insiders have said young people could easily switch from Juul to one of these brands.
The FDA earlier this month said it would bar the sale of fruit and mint flavors in pod-based e-cigarettes popular with teenagers, but wouldn’t apply the restriction to disposable e-cigarettes or to tank vaping systems commonly found at vape shops.
The action was seen as a compromise between Trump administration officials who wanted to address a rise in teen vaping and those concerned about the impact on small businesses and the possible political fallout for President Trump.
Some lawmakers and antitobacco groups have criticized the compromise, saying the administration should have stuck to its earlier plan of taking all vaping products off the market except those flavored like tobacco. In a letter to the FDA, Sen. Tom Udall asked why the agency wasn’t restricting flavors in disposable e-cigarettes, adding that they “come in an array of flavors that appeal to youth.”
The agency said it would respond directly to the senator.
Agency officials have said they would closely monitor manufacturers and retailers to ensure the new regulations are sufficient to combat e-cigarette use by children and teenagers. They have pledged penalties for companies that target minors, that use marketing likely to appeal to young people or that don’t take adequate measures to restrict youth access.
The FDA also has the authority to halt sales of any e-cigarette that wasn’t on the market as of August 2016, when the agency began regulating the vaping industry.
Some disposable Juul look-alike brands appear to have been introduced more recently, after Juul’s sales took off in 2017. The FDA has sent letters to three manufacturers of disposable e-cigarettes—including VGOD Inc., which makes Stig—asking for evidence that they were on the market in 2016. An FDA spokesman said he couldn’t comment on whether the companies had responded. VGOD didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Write to Jennifer Maloney at firstname.lastname@example.org
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