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Vape rules loophole keeps flavors on shelves


When the federal Food and Drug Administration announced last month it was stepping up enforcement of its rules against flavored vape products, agency officials said the goal was to eliminate the products’ appeal to young people.

The FDA specifically named fruit and mint flavors as drivers of e-cigarettes use among youths.

But many of those flavors are still available in vape shops. 

That’s because disposable e-cigarettes are not covered under the FDA’s enforcement priorities.

Buried in a footnote on the ninth page of a document the agency prepared to guide vaping industry leaders through the new rules, the FDA carved out an exemption for disposable products.

Sold under brand names like Puff Bar and Hyde, disposable e-cigarettes are widely available in Rochester vape shops. They come in flavors like “Pineapple Lemonade”, “Banana Ice,” and mango and mint.

As the “disposable” label implies, the vapes are meant to be discarded after the nicotine-laced liquid inside them runs out.

Irfan Rahman, who runs a lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center that studies e-cigarettes, said a growing number of people who come to URMC with vaping-related lung injuries report using disposable products.

“We don’t know if these are popular with kids yet,” he said. “But we are seeing less and less of Juul and more and more of these disposable products.”

If teen use of disposable products grows, Rahman said, “it defeats the purpose” of the FDA’s rules.

The FDA said the non-disposable products that are covered under its enforcement priorities have been the most popular among youth.

Still, the agency left room to shift the focus of its rules.

“Let us be clear,” FDA spokesperson Michael Felderbaum wrote in an email, “under this policy, if we see a product that is targeted to kids, we will take action.”

Brett Dahlberg is a health reporter at WXXI, a media partner of CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].