Flavored Tobacco Ban in U.S. Could Push Consumers into the Illegal Gray Market

    Flavored Tobacco Ban in U.S. Could Push Consumers into the Illegal Gray Market

    Juul Labs Inc. came out swinging against a possible comprehensive flavored tobacco ban, saying it would hurt adult smokers who want to quit cigarettes and could even push U.S. consumers into the illegal “gray market.”

    In a response to the FDA’s (United States food and drug administration) inquiry about the role of flavors in tobacco products, the company said the FDA’s “limited resources” would be better spent in preventing tobacco exposure among adolescents than discouraging the uptake of ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) by American smokers who try to quit traditional cigarettes.

    Flavored Tobacco Ban in U.S. Could Push Consumers into the Illegal Gray MarketOn July 16, San Francisco-based Juul wrote in its comments to the FDA, “Before depriving the tools of millions of adult smokers which can help them quit smoking, FDA should fully realize if flavored ENDS really pose a risk to the young man which cannot be alleviated with other regulatory alternatives.”

    Juul, the startup behind the popular e-cigarette which is reminiscent of a flash drive, has captured nearly 71 percent of the e-cigarette market in the USA, according to a report by Wells Fargo Securities LLC using Nielsen data. Flavors have been an important part of Juul’s success, with mango and mint being its best-selling nicotine pods. The company sells only eight flavors, two of which taste like tobacco but has registered with the  Food and Drug Administration 55 off-market Juul liquids, from strawberry limoncello to spicy watermelon.

    Flavored Tobacco Ban in U.S. Could Push Consumers into the Illegal Gray MarketAshley Gould, Juul’s chief executive, said in an interview, ” Our focus has always been on providing flavors which are helpful for adults to switch to e-cigarettes and to stay switched. Mango is one of the most important flavors we currently offer to adult smokers in order to switch based on our early data.”

    The Influence of Flavored Tobacco Ban in U.S.

    If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits the use of flavors in tobacco products, it could create a “gray market,” like what happened in Ontario after its menthol cigarette ban: a soar in online purchases, illicit local sales or purchasing on Native American reservations.

    “As an ‘off-ramp,’ flavors should be continued to be allowed in alternative products, which was seen after the ban on menthol cigarettes in Ontario,” the company wrote.

    Juul recommends the U.S. Food and Drug Administration use case-by-case evaluation of specific flavors in e-cig products rather than an across-the-board flavored tobacco ban.

    The company is also planning to further study whether some demographics favor certain tastes, which would help it assess whether underage smokers are attracted to certain products.

    Related: Teenagers Love Vaping Flavors, and It’s a Regulatory Nightmare

    “What surprises me a little bit is the concept of zero or one, flavors or no flavors. And when they stand up and say, ‘look at all these flavors: bubble gum, cotton candy, sugar cookie,’ which Juul does not make, to say that those are the same as mint is very misleading in terms of the appeal and the intent of those flavors,” Chief Executive Officer Kevin Burns said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “I just don’t buy that you can say all flavors are equal.”

    Flavored Tobacco Ban in U.S. Could Push Consumers into the Illegal Gray MarketThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found itself in a difficult position because it is considering regulating flavors in e-cigarettes, given their potential to help adult smokers switch from combustible tobacco products but also attracting young people looking for ways to have access to the nicotine pods. This spring, the agency sent a series of warning letters to companies selling e-juices about misleading children with products resembling food and candy.

    The public commentary period that ended July 19, is part of the FDA’s multiyear road map to address tobacco-related diseases and deaths in the United States.

    “When it comes to the flavors in non-combustible products like e-cigarettes, we realize that there are other factors to consider in this issue,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement earlier this year. “Here, the flavors can be both harmful and beneficial.”


    Ryan is a writer, editor and content creator who spends most of his time bringing the interesting, entertaining, original and well-written articles to vapers. He believes that vaping is not only a healthier alternative to smoking, but also a great experience of life.