RJ Reynolds Petitions FDA to Target their Competition
RAI services and R.J. Reynolds filed a petition on Feb 6, which was, in turn, posted by the FDA to Regulations.gov for public comment on Feb 8, 2023. You can find the Reynolds citizen petition at Regulations.gov for public viewing.
Convenience store disposable vapes have been tough for Reynolds to compete against with their Vuse Vibes. So, rather than investing in creating better and more innovative products, they are asking the FDA to step up its enforcement game against disposable vapes. The language in the petition tries to draw a correlation between convenience store/gas Station disposable vapes and the health of teens.
Big Tobacco "Concern" for Public Health
Under the guise of concern for public health, the manufacturers of Camel, Newport, and Pall Mall are worried that:
- Disposables sales are on the rise.
- Convenience stores cannot keep disposables from underage vapers.
- Fentanyl-laced disposables are a thing, and teens are using them.
It takes less writing to disprove all these claims than it took R.J. to manufacture them.
- Disposable vape use is on the rise, so what? Adults like convenience; how is that any of your business, Big Tobacco? Make an ENDs (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) solution we like, and we might buy it.
- Convenience stores and gas stations deal with underage "shoulder tappers" daily. Cashiers can deal with traditional cigarette shoulder tapping, but not vape shoulder tapping. Hmmm.
- Pure FUD. One small paper in a tiny town interviewed an employee who said someone was putting drugs in their disposables. That is not an epidemic or "something happening right now," but sensationalism added to the petition to strike a nerve.
According to the recent Vaping360 article entitled, "R.J. Reynolds Asks FDA to Target Disposable Vapes for Enforcement," Jim McDonald explains, "Essentially, Reynolds is asking the FDA to revamp its enforcement priorities to target Vuse's biggest current competitors…Reynolds has a specific list of products it would like the FDA to eliminate: Any flavored disposable ENDS (except for Tobacco- or menthol-flavored products) …Needless to say, R.J. Reynolds doesn't sell disposable vapes, vaping products in flavors other than Tobacco or menthol."
WAIT, IT GETS BETTER! READ THE PETITION
The more I read, the more disgusted I got with the entire petition. It reads like Reynold's natural beef is that they are getting their asses handed to them in a fair, free-market economy. Rather than do what American companies do and invent better ENDS products, they have to unlevel the playing field to grab more share, all poorly positioned as a public concern.
- Evidence collaging - Reynolds goes on in the petition to use evidence collaging, showing charts going up, and to the right in the section, they are talking about teen vaping on the rise. At first glance, to someone not versed in statistics, it appears that Reynolds is making the case that teen vaping is on the rise when the charts and graphs show that disposables use (compared to other vape devices) is what is on the rise. The chart shows a rise in the percentage of vapers buying disposables, but their talking points suggest removing disposables will affect teen vaping. In truth, for the past two years, CDC (Centers for Disease Control) surveys suggest teen vaping is on the decline and has been these past two years while Big Tobacco, the FDA, and CDC all beat their teen epidemic anti-vaping drums. Why even try to make a correlation between disposable sales and teen vaping? If there is no correlation (and there isn’t), then vaping device decisions by adults is not a Big Tobacco concern. Profit margins then would be the big tobacco concern. Submitting a petition to go after your competition for purely competitive business reasons and positioning it as anything else is bad form.
Just guessing here, but who would care the most that there is a trend whereby vapers are using more disposables than pod systems? Who sells pod systems but not disposables? How dare consumers in a free market prefer disposables!
- False Narrative and Private interest investment in the false narrative- In truth, the last two years of reporting from the CDC indicate teen vaping is on the decline, and there is no teen vaping crisis. Some vape watchdogs even suggest the CDC held onto the results this year for months after they usually release the findings because it would derail the FDA narrative that teen vaping is on the rise and is a crisis. It would be a bad look if new reports showed teen usage was on a decline while non-profits are busy spending all that Bloomberg money to spread the opposite message (the continued false narrative that teen vaping is on the rise). Bloomberg paid $160,000,000 to spread the narrative that e-cigarette use among kids is an epidemic and that vape flavors are the problem.
- Purposefully Confusing facts - Reynolds tries to make the point in this petition that disposables sold at gas stations and convenience stores run a higher risk of getting into the hands of teens. The clerks can't be trusted to verify age in disposables sales, but are okay to verify age for tobacco products, pod systems, alcohol, and even lottery tickets. Reyolds singles out disposables as unenforceable products and tries to hamper convenience stores and corner gas stations' ability to sell vapes suggesting their availability at those locations leads to more teen vaping. How convenient that a decision like this would open the door (and shelf space) for their Vuse Pod Systems, which are currently not selling nearly as well as disposables.
Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) - Reynolds suggests disposables are laced with fentanyl and urge action. They are quoting a single local newspaper story, quoting a school superintendent explaining that disposables at his school had been "injected" with fentanyl and heroin. I am guessing from the students. Certainly not by any vape manufacturer. It sucks that those kids did that. Scumbags have been lacing drinks, pills, and cigs with fentanyl for decades. Suggesting there is a problem with the vape industry because someone at a small school once used a vape device as a delivery mechanism for illegal activities is libelous.
Any other industry would sue them for trying to make such blatant unfounded correlations. However, the vape industry is still reeling from all the other roadblocks Big Tobacco has thrown in its way, and no one wants to stick their head up to be targeted next by Big Tobacco and the agencies that appear to be working on their behalf.
In another example, the petition suggests that if the FDA starts enforcement of Reynold's competitive takeout scheme, it will close a "loophole" in the FDA's youth enforcement efforts. None of this applies to the vape manufacturers Reynolds wants the FDA to go after. They call a "loophole" the Deeming Rule, which allows legacy flavored products that were otherwise compliant and had received FDA approval before 2016 to continue selling their flavored vapes. Intentional misuse of the word "loophole" is incendiary toward the vape industry and a false narrative.
In yet another example, the petition states that "The action requested will better protect the public health and ensure a level playing field by discouraging illicit products and maintaining the availability of legally marketed, potentially less harmful options for current and former adult smokers who have transitioned or wish to transition from combustible cigarettes,"
By "ensure a level playing field", they mean leveled for the profitability of their tobacco products against disposables. To bring these profitability concerns into a paragraph about public safety says a lot.
As consumers and voters, you'd think we would know better by now than to take anything the tobacco industry says at face value. This isn't the first time Reynolds has tried to kill all vape competitions outright. In 2014 they urged the FDA to ban all open, refillable vape pod products (refillable systems). The FDA incorporated many of those suggestions into the Deeming Rule, making it difficult or impossible for small businesses to compete in the industry; while making it possible for more prominent "bad actors" like Juul to proliferate the market and further give the vape industry a black eye.
This writer hopes he will be able to continue to vape his cherry-flavored vapes and continue to stay off the combustible tobacco he smoked for 30 years. An ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) device that smells like tobacco is not helpful to people trying to get off tobacco.