"We can't allow people to get sick and we can't have our youth be so affected," bizarrely exclaimed President Trump as he announced his ban. "That's how the first lady got involved. She's got a son, together, that is a beautiful young man and she feels very, very strongly about it. She's seen it. We're both reading it, a lot of people are reading it. But people are dying with vaping so we're looking at it very, very closely."
Many have puzzled over what he was actually trying to say, but the following statements are much clearer:
VPZ, the UK’s largest retailer of vaping products, was quick to respond. Doug Mutter, compliance director at VPZ, said: “The plans announced by President Trump do not make any sense and will mean that millions of Americans will be forced to choose between smoking again and turning to products on the black market.”
“President Trump has rightly called for tighter controls and regulation and this must be an urgent priority for the US market-place. There is no strict testing and regulation landscape in the US, and this has led to a prevalence of inferior and home-made products that don’t meet minimum safety standards.”
“It is also crucial to recognise that despite the full investigation not yet being available, there have been reports that the majority of the cases have been linked to people using illicit vaping fluid bought on the streets, with some containing cannabis products, like THC.”
He added: “Vaping is already proving to be a key weapon in the UK’s stop smoking strategy and is bringing momentum to the country’s ambition of becoming smoke-free by 2030. The UK continues to pioneer the global vaping industry and sets the most rigorous standards in testing, safety and compliance, meaning that vapers and smokers looking to make the switch to vaping can have confidence that the products they are using are manufactured to the highest standards.”
“The industry in the UK is tightly regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and they operate the Yellow Card Scheme, encouraging vapers to report any bad experiences. There haven’t been any reported cases since its introduction in 2016. The advice from Public Health England also remains the same, vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking and is the most effective way to quit smoking for good.”
Ben Pryor, who co-owns Alt New Zealand and Vapo with Jonathan Devery, said: “Banning most vaping flavours is like banning flavours in low-calorie drinks and food. It makes no sense whatsoever and won’t help anyone.”
He noted that New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister recently announced a similar policy to Trump, in that Kiwis might only have a choice of three vaping flavours.
“The big reason our smoking rates have fallen is because tens of thousands of Kiwis smokers are now vapers, and are much healthier for it. Limiting vaping flavours will only make it harder for those wanting to quit tobacco and its killer consequences. That would be a very poor ‘wellbeing’ outcome for this Government,” Prior added.
In the UK, trade body UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) commented on the ‘vaping’ illnesses: “Whilst details remain unclear, it appears that the incidents in the USA are linked to people using illegal liquids, most likely black-market marijuana products (THC oils). Products such as these are illegal in the UK, which is why there have been no similar cases reported here and why there is no link to the flavoured, nicotine based vaping products smokers are using to quit. Public Health England have rightly drawn a distinction between the situation in the USA and the UK; in the UK there is a rigorously regulated market overseen by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. This means that vapers and smokers looking to switch to vaping can therefore have the confidence that the products they are purchasing are of a high standard and safe.”
“As a trade association, the UKVIA will continue our discussions with the public health community to help share best practice and advice. As always, we advise consumers to only purchase their vaping products from reputable retailers where they can seek expert advice if they require it. But it is important to remember that the advice from Public Health England remains the same – vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and it is the most effective way for UK’s remaining 7 million smokers to quit.”
The Association also shared its opinion on flavoured vape products: “Flavours play a hugely important role in encouraging smokers to switch to a less harmful product, and crucially in providing enough consumer variety to ensure those smokers stay switched. At the same time, there is no evidence of any link between flavours and youth vaping; in the UK recent stats show that rates of vaping amongst young people remains at less than 2% and is almost exclusively confined to those youths who regularly smoke.”
“As an Association, we want to ensure that rates of youth vaping remain very low but we are also clear that any move to ban flavours is not the way to do this. That’s why we will continue to work together as an industry to take the responsible steps necessary to prevent access to vaping by young people without deterring adult smokers from using a less harmful product. Our code of conduct insists on robust online age verification methods, a challenge 25 policy in-store and sets a clear expectation that products are only to be marketed towards adult smokers, vapers and consumers of other nicotine products."
UKVIA’s spokesperson Dan Marchant (Managing Director of Vape Club) said: “It is a shame that the US President has been poorly advised on the facts; this decision is based on misleading information and will only serve to deter smokers from making a life changing switch to a far less harmful alternative. In the UK, we are proud to be a standard bearer for a consumer-driven industry which has already helped millions of people across the world stop smoking. We will continue to work with the public health community in the UK to spread the facts about vaping, which Public Health England continue to advise is 95% less harmful than smoking and is the most effective way for UK’s remaining 7 million smokers to quit.”
Organisers of Germany’s The Hall of Vape also condemned Trump’s decision: “The Hall of Vape hereby expressly dissociates itself from all statements made by the President of the United States of America - by Mr. Donald Trump - regarding the e-cigarette. The e-cigarette has saved millions of lives and will continue to do so in future.”
So much weight supporting a flavour ban has been placed on warped evidence – and vociferous discounting of genuine evidence decrying such a move. The New Nicotine Alliance’s (NNA) Vice Chair Louise Ross commented: “When it was suggested that a number of people committed suicide after using Chantix/Champix, what happened? A Pfizer-funded study to show it wasn’t true was accepted as good evidence. Such hypocrisy.”
Of the evidence being ignored, many studies point to a fact that flavour bans will negatively impact smokers switching away from a more harmful product. NNA’s Chair Martin Cullip recently wrote: “As I have said ad infinitum, vaping bans deter adult smokers from switching to ecigs, this research concurs [link]. Public and private policymakers take note.”
Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos followed up his comment yesterday, where he stated this ban would mean the death of the American vaping industry, with a comment made during a presentation at a conference today: “THC seems to be the cause for all respiratory failure cases in the US. 60% of never smoking kids who use ecigs report ever marijuana use with ecigs (NYTS 2018 data). So, let's ban flavours to save everyone and do nothing about THC. Makes a lot of sense, right?”
Professor Michael Siegel adds: “The White House and FDA's plan to ban flavoured electronic cigarettes would be a public health disaster: (1) many ex-smokers will return to smoking; and (2) a new, unregulated black market for flavoured e-liquids will be created. Hopefully, they will re-think this policy.” He also pointed to the reasons behind the move, “This incisive piece by Jacob Sullum for Reason pretty much sums it up: Michael Bloomberg's Anti-Vaping Crusade Is Objectively Pro-Tobacco [link].”
The ramifications of Trump’s announcement were alluded to by Public Health England’s Martin Dockrell, who said: “Sure enough, tobacco shares looking perky today.”
Prof Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health, University of Edinburgh, said: “Solutions are needed to address the recent outbreak of serious respiratory diseases linked to vaping in the USA. But banning flavoured e-cigarettes is not the answer.”
“The evidence accumulating in America points to contaminants in black market products as having caused these cases, particularly cannabis oils that are being vaped. Nicotine-containing flavoured vaping products are almost certainly not the main cause. These products have been available for a decade and have been used by around 10 million Americans (primarily to quit or cut down smoking) with few adverse effects. It is true that a rising number of American teenagers have tried or recently used flavoured vapes and this has caused alarm. But by removing all these products from the market, the proposed US policy forgets that the flavours are an important part of the appeal to adult smokers trying to quit smoking. In fact, in surveys in both the UK and the USA, fruit and sweet flavours are far more commonly used by adult ex-smokers as they help separate smoking from vaping and help transition smokers to using a far less harmful product.”
“In Europe, flavoured e-cigarettes have contributed to recent declines in adult smoking and well-conducted randomised controlled trials show that these products do help people quit. In addition, in the UK, rates of use among youth who have never smoked remain low. This may be explained by our very different regulatory framework. It includes limits on nicotine content, child- and tamper-proof packaging, prohibition of certain chemicals and, importantly, a ban on many forms of advertising that are still permitted in the USA.”
“My concern is that if most e-cigarettes are banned in the USA, adult smokers will return to tobacco and for those who don’t, demand for black market products will rise. A flourishing illicit market is far more likely to cause health harms than pursuing proportionate regulation of the type we’ve aimed for in Europe.”
Dr Lion Shahab, Associate Professor in Health Psychology at University College London, said: “While evidence about the precise cause of the recent spate of ‘vaping lung disease’ in the USA is still being evaluated, it appears that cases were mainly seen in young users of e-cigarettes who bought bootlegged products illegally that contained cannabis ingredients. Crucially, these products used oil as suspension liquid as cannabis is not easily dissolved in standard e-liquids. Oil is not recommended as a carrier liquid for e-liquids as it will damage the lungs when inhaled and likely caused the lung disease described in reports.”
“Legal products available in the UK are compliant with EU regulation, using propylene glycol and glycerine as suspension and carrier liquid for nicotine and flavourings to produce the vapour, not oil. Standard e-liquids have been used safely by millions of people to help them stop smoking for over a decade now, without any of the adverse health effects reported in the US.”
“Flavours are therefore unlikely to be the cause of ‘vaping lung disease’ and banning them would not have prevented this recent outbreak. It is, of course, unfortunate that people use bootlegged products to vape illegal drugs; however, this problem is not unique to e-cigarettes and similarly applies to bootlegged alcohol and Class A drugs used for recreational purposes.”