In one of their first moves since gaining control over the tobacco industry, the FDA has banned the sale of flavored cigarettes. The ban went into effect yesterday after the agency announced that any company selling cigarettes containing additive flavors, such as strawberry and vanilla (menthol cigarettes are exempt from the ban for now), would be subject to “FDA enforcement actions.”
As the traditional tobacco industry becomes more restricted, some have suggested electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, could help fill in the gap. E-cigarettes, which contain nicotine but produce vapor instead of smoke, debuted in China about five years ago. They use lithium batteries to heat up liquid nicotine solutions and have become increasingly popular in the U.S. over the past year. But e-cigarette manufacturers have also come under scrutiny for targeting children with apple, cherry, and other kid-friendly flavors.
In July, Oregon attorney general John Kroger brought a lawsuit against a Florida-based e-cigarette company, Smoking Everywhere, citing their flavored nicotine cartridges as a primary concern. Because e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco and aren’t marketed directly as smoking cessation tools, e-cigarette manufacturers argue their products shouldn’t be subject to FDA regulation. The FDA disagrees and has been taking steps to stop the sale of e-cigarettes nationwide until more safety tests are conducted.
Whether the FDA ban will boost sales of flavored e-cigarettes remains unclear. Flavored cigarettes reportedly make up less than 1 percent of the tobacco market, but should the FDA decide to ban menthol cigarettes next, as they implied they would in yesterday’s press release, flavored products may become an even more prominent part of the e-cigarette business model. That is, until they, too, become illegal.