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Exemption in vape rules allows continued sale of flavors

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Irfan Rahman
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University of Rochester Medical Center
Flavored vape products remain on store shelves even after an FDA enforcement effort that the agency said would remove them. Disposable flavored e-cigarettes are still allowed under the enforcement priorities.

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

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

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

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

In a footnote on the ninth page ofa 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 – amongthe most popular flavors for teens – 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 runsa lab that studies e-cigarettes at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said he’s seen an increasing number of disposable products recovered from people who come to URMC with vaping-related lung injuries.

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Credit Irfan Rahman / University of Rochester Medical Center
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University of Rochester Medical Center
Irfan Rahman, who runs a lab investigating e-cigarettes at the University of Rochester Medical Center, says he's seeing "more and more" disposable flavored vape 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.

At some local schools, administrators said teens have already discovered the loophole.

“We are definitely seeing a shift from Juul and other pod system devices to the disposable devices,” said Stephanie Rago, who runs substance use prevention efforts for the Greece Central School District.

Juulsaid last year that it would stop selling the flavors that were most popular among teenagers, but Rago said now disposable vapes have “picked up where Juul left off.”

The FDA said its new enforcement priorities are targeting the products that have been the most popular among youth.

Still, the agency left room for shifting the focus of its rules. “Let us be clear, under this policy, If we see a product that is targeted to kids, we will take action,” spokesperson Michael Felderbaum said in an email.

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