FDA takes aim at e-cigarette companies

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The ongoing push to remove flavored nicotine products from the market continued Monday with the federal Food and Drug Administration announcing it had sent warning letters to several companies. 

Last week, Puff Bar, a company that first gained popularity last year for a variety of fruity vape products, announced it would no longer sell or distribute in the U.S.

Despite the move, the California-based company is one of 10 the FDA singled out for selling “youth-appealing e-liquid products.”

The other nine include HQD Tech USA LLC, Myle Vape Inc., Eleaf USA, Vape Deal LLC, Majestic Vapor LLC, E Cigarette Empire LLC, Ohm City Vapes Inc., Breazy Inc. and Hina Singh Enterprises, which is doing business as Just Eliquids Distro Inc.

Accusations against each company range from not having proper premarket authorization to imitating food products that appeal to teens.

“FDA has requested responses from each firm within 15 working days detailing how each company intends to address the agency’s concerns…” the warning announcement said. “Failure to correct violations may result in further action such as a civil money penalty complaint, seizure or injunction. In addition, misbranded or adulterated products imported into the U.S. are subject to detention and refusal of admission.”

The warning letters come after a federal ban on some flavored products was announced earlier this year.

“The decision was made only to ban flavors in the pod-type products,” Spectrum Health tobacco treatment specialist Libby Stern, told News 8. “Disposable products and refillables, they didn’t ban.”

A licensed master social worker, Stern works for the Tobacco and Nicotine Treatment Program at Spectrum, which offers free four-week classes to help people quit smoking.

“It’s kind of like a roadmap through cessation,” she explained of the Quit 101 class. “What are going to be my difficult times? They’ll track their smoking or nicotine use and figure out which times of day do I really need to plan for? Which medications do I want to use? Which kind of distractions or stress management or coping skills do I need to work on?”

Those who argue against a flavor ban, including in ongoing litigation involving Michigan’s attempt to stop sales in the state, say vaping with flavored nicotine can help people quit smoking cigarettes. 

Stern hasn’t found that to be true for the majority of those registered in Spectrum’s class, however — in part because vaping is not an approved way to quit smoking.

“There are really basically seven medications approved,” Stern explained. “Five of them are what are considered nicotine replacement, so like the patch, the gum, the lozenges. Also there’s an inhaler and a nasal spray and then there are a couple prescription medications as well. Electronic products are not approved for cessation.”

She also pointed out flavored products often include a chemical that has been tied to vaping illnesses and even deaths. 

Concern over illness and teen usage due to alleged targeted marketing prompted Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to move to ban flavored vape products last year. In May, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld an injunction that prevents enforcement. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office is looking to appeal that decision to the state Supreme Court.