Tobacco News and Updates: Summer 2021
The latest tobacco product news, policies and stories are here. There’s a lot to catch up on, so let’s dive in.
Inside this edition:
- The menthol flavor ban is gaining momentum.
- Tobacco-free nicotine: Is it safe?
- Vape sellers and influencers are using TikTok to target kids.
- Strengthening the first line of defense against youth vaping.
Potential Menthol Ban:
In April, the FDA announced plans to begin the process of banning menthol in cigarettes. This ban comes a year after the FDA’s flavor ban targeted the e-cigarette market, yet left out menthol flavors, among other loopholes.
The ban is not forecasted to take effect for another two years, which gives cessation programs, like the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, an opportunity to provide support to menthol smokers, a population that is disproportionally African American. That’s important because research proves that menthols are harder to quit than non-menthol flavored cigarettes.
Learn more about the dangers of menthol and Big Tobacco’s history of targeting African Americans.
New Nicotine Products:
While the youth vaping epidemic continues, another nicotine product is emerging: synthetic nicotine. PuffBar, which stopped selling back in July 2020, is returning to the market with a new synthetic formula. The company states that this new production method yields fewer impurities than tobacco-derived nicotine.
They’re calling this category tobacco-free nicotine, and despite not having regulatory approval, a number of these new products are already on the market. Even more worryingly, they come in kid-friendly flavors.
Another concern? Nicotine pouches. Brands like Velo, on! and ZYN are hoping to take oral nicotine by storm — and it’s a category that’s already seen tremendous growth. A 2020 report shows a 470% increase in nicotine pouch sales during the first half of 2020.
Flavors, high nicotine concentrations and discreet packaging: When it comes to youth appeal, tobacco-free nicotine pouches share many of the same dangerous elements as vaping — including flavors. These are products to keep your eye on.
Vape sellers and influencers are busy using TikTok to peddle these nicotine-packed products.
The tricks sellers use to conceal their products are stunning. In fact, they tout discreetness as a selling point, going so far as to pack vapes deep inside boxes of candy or, in one case, in a box of fuzzy pink slippers. For kids looking to buy vapes, this extra layer of deception could be all it takes for them to make the purchase. Another step these sellers sidestep to ensure a sale? No age verification.
Influencers pose another problem. They post vape content with hashtags typically reserved for kids. Here’s one: #kids. This means young TikTok users are exposed to vape content when they’re not even looking for it.
Learn more about vapes on TikTok.
Kids Accessing Products Illegally:
Recently, the federal and state minimum age to purchase tobacco was raised from 18 to 21. Many believe this to be a critical step in curbing underage tobacco use. However, as TSET Executive Director Julie Bisbee explains, it’s critical for vape and tobacco retailers to be held accountable for consistent age verification.
In Oklahoma alone, 1 in 4 youth report vaping in the past month. While Oklahoma state agencies fight to prevent underage vaping, retailers are often the first line of defense. Their only responsibility? Enforce consistent age verification.
One thing is for sure. Ending the youth vaping epidemic takes a comprehensive community effort — including vape retailers. It’s time to hold them accountable.
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