78 Organizations Urge Stricter Enforcement on Flavored Vaping Products

In a bold move underscoring the ongoing battle against flavored vaping products, a coalition of 78 special interest organizations has called for intensified federal enforcement. This united front sent a letter yesterday to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Troy Miller of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, emphasizing the urgent need for stricter measures against these products, particularly the popular disposable vapes. 

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Leads the Charge 

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, known for its aggressive stance against tobacco and vaping products, appears to have spearheaded this initiative. Their press release announcing the letter highlights the broad support from various sectors, including tobacco control, medical specialties, education, and political groups.  

 Echoing Big Tobacco's Demands 

Interestingly, the demands outlined in the letter align closely with those of major cigarette manufacturers R.J. Reynolds and Altria Group. These giants have urged the FDA to crack down on unauthorized vape products to protect their own FDA-authorized offerings. This unusual alignment suggests that removing popular vaping products could inadvertently benefit traditional cigarette sales, providing a lifeline to a declining market. 

 The Call for Comprehensive Enforcement 

The letter urges the FDA, along with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to leverage all available enforcement tools. These include civil monetary penalties, no-tobacco-sale orders, product seizures, import restrictions, injunctive actions, and criminal prosecutions. The letter criticizes the current enforcement efforts as insufficient, noting that while over 600 warning letters have been issued, more robust actions are rare. Only 55 manufacturers and 108 retailers have faced civil monetary penalties, and just a handful of injunctions and product seizures have been executed. 

A Paradoxical Alliance 

The coalition's stance has created a paradoxical alliance. Historically antagonistic towards the tobacco industry, these organizations now find themselves aligned with it in pushing for stricter regulations on vaping products. This "team of rivals" includes not just tobacco giants but also Democratic U.S. senators, predominantly Republican state legislators, and the vape-critical leadership at the FDA. 

The FDA's Track Record Under Scrutiny 

The FDA's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) has faced criticism for its handling of vaping product authorizations. Since Brian King's appointment as CTP Director two years ago, not a single flavored vape product or bottled e-liquid has received FDA approval. This rigorous stance appears consistent with the CTP's broader mission but has fueled frustration among vaping advocates and businesses. 


Financial Ties and Historical Collaborations 

The relationship between anti-tobacco organizations and the tobacco industry is not without precedent. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids previously collaborated with the industry on significant initiatives like the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement and the 2009 Tobacco Control Act. The latter granted the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products, a power it continues to wield in the current vaping controversy. 

The Future of Vaping Regulation 

As the FDA and other federal agencies consider the coalition's demands, the future of flavored vaping products hangs in the balance. The outcome will likely have far-reaching implications for public health, the vaping industry, and the broader tobacco market. Whether this intensified enforcement will lead to a healthier society or simply reshape the dynamics of nicotine consumption remains to be seen. 

In the coming months, stakeholders on all sides will be watching closely. The alignment of such diverse interests against flavored vaping products signals a critical juncture in the ongoing debate over tobacco and nicotine regulation. 


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