With the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, Brit-based travellers are increasingly unsure of the complexities they’ll face in the short- and longer-term when visiting other countries. However, largely, that’s when it comes to travelling to (for now, other) parts of the EU. Travelling further afield to somewhere, like, say the United States is unlikely to be more complex or easier than it’s been before. But hold your horses there – maybe not if you’re a vaper.
Why so? Because the body that sets and oversees health legislation in the country – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – is set to make radical, if very specific, alterations to which vaping products can and can’t be sold and to whom in the US; alterations that, should you be planning a visit to the States in the near future, you’d be well advised to be properly aware of.
The US may be a country that’s just as crazy about vaping – if not more, even – than the UK, but it’s also a country that (legislation-wise, arguably) has more of a Jekyll-and-Hyde attitude to vaping. Just like over here, many medical experts and lawmakers bow to the overwhelming evidence that e-cigarette devices and e-juices are far healthier than tobacco-based smoking and that vaping can play a pivotal role in helping hardcore smokers quit tobacco for good, yet it’s certainly fair to say that, were you to judge from the sort of vaping legislation that’s been passed in the US, you wouldn’t exactly get that impression.
Perhaps it should be no surprise then that, as of last month (November 2018), the FDA announced its intention to outlaw the sale of fruit-, sweet- and dessert-flavoured e-liquids and such flavoured e-juice-pre-loaded vape pods in physical outlets (which in the US means, most commonly, convenience stores and gas stations). And although, in addition to all other vape products, these items will still be able in vape stores themselves, more stringent age restrictions in such outlets – and for online retailers – are to be enforced.
The justification for doing all this is apparently to target and attempt to end the so-called ‘vaping epidemic’ that’s spread through teenagers across the nation in the past year (statistics suggest that the activity’s increased in this age range by as much as 78 percent since the beginning of 2018).
Flaws in the FDA’s thinking
So, should you be travelling to the US and, while you’re over there, find yourself short on e-liquid (or wanting to pick up specific pods), then these upcoming changes in legislation are going to affect you. That said; are they are actually going to be effective? Are they actually going to make the sort of difference the lawmakers want? Unfortunately, the FDA may well have made its decisions here based on assumptions – assumptions that may not be true.
First, it appears to have decided that convenience stores and gas stations are incapable of ‘carding’ teenagers effectively; something many such establishments have been doing for years and would doubtless claim they do perfectly well. And, second, the FDA appears to have assumed that if it makes it harder for teenagers to get their hands on fruity-tasting, sweet-flavoured e-juices, vaping among this demographic will thereby drop. Is this genuinely likely?
Don’t ignore the research
Well, the FDA definitely has a bee in its bonnet – as does so much of the US media – that the e-liquid sale of these flavours is being marketed to adolescents, yet they’re clearly not *exclusively* marketed to them. We know this for the simple reason that were this happening it would be far from working, for a study has found that the hugely important demographic of fruit-, sweet- and dessert-flavoured e-juice consumers are adults (those aged over 18) who are former smokers – and so have, no doubt, turned to vaping as a means of quitting smoking. Indeed, of this demographic (arguably the biggest of all vapers), 85 percent claimed they use fruit- and/ or dessert-flavoured vape juices.
In fact, on the strength of these findings, the study’s authors wrote: “Overly restrictive regulation, such as banning the sales of specific flavour groups (especially fruit and dessert/ pastry/ bakery flavours), might prevent smokers from switching to e-cigarette use or may increase the relapse rate among former smokers who have managed to quit with the help of cigarettes”.
Needless to say then, the FDA’s reactive approach to vaping legislation obviously isn’t changing tack, which is disappointing because it flies in the face of all the reasonable steps the vaping community has taken – in the UK, US and elsewhere – to ensure its products are of high-quality (including premium e-liquid) and get to the right customers and not into the hands of the wrong customers. Nonetheless, should you be a fruit-flavour fanatic or an avid pod user, these changes in US law are important to note and remember ahead of taking a trip Stateside.