The FDA Center for Tobacco Products is about to ask for public comment on flavored e-liquid, and the agency appears to be following the tobacco control party line that maintains that some flavors are geared toward teenagers.

A draft of the agency’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) is working its way toward publication by the FDA in the Federal Register. No one is certain if the language currently in the document will change before the final call for comment is issued.

Evidence shows that flavored tobacco products, especially those that are sweet or are described with terms attractive to kids, appeal to youth and also shows that youth may be more likely to initiate tobacco use with such products. Evidence also shows that the presence of flavors in some non-combustible tobacco products may play a role in helping some tobacco users transition away from combusted tobacco products, which are likely the most harmful currently marketed form of nicotine delivery for an individual user. This ANPRM will seek information on how it might regulate flavors in tobacco products to limit appeal to youth while taking into account the potential role that some flavors may play in helping some users transition away from combusted products. Certain flavors are generally recognized as appealing to youth, such as gummy bear and cotton candy, while others, such as coffee and cinnamon, may not be as obvious. In this notice, FDA would request information on how best to regulate flavors in tobacco products to limit appeal to youth and prevent youth initiation and use of tobacco products.

Once the ANPRM is published, there will be a set period during which public comment is solicited. It is crucial that vapers and vape manufacturers and retailers respond in numbers. This is certainly the most important proposed rule that vapers have the knowledge to affect.

How the FDA approaches the issue of flavors may determine whether the independent vaping industry lives or dies. Flavored e-liquid essentially is the vaping industry. And the preliminary version of the wording is clearly slanted toward the assumption that some flavors are “marketed to youth.”

“Certain flavors are generally recognized as appealing to youth, such as gummy bear and cotton candy,” says the document. And the generally accepted talking point for anti-vapers is that some flavors are only used by kids. They apparently believe that it’s a good business strategy to markets and sell adult products illegally to underage customers — which, of course, would be an impossible business plan.

Lots of people in tobacco control believe that. Even many of the ones who accept that vaping can be useful to help smokers quit don’t believe that flavors other than tobacco need to be available to adults. Some of these influential people apparently think that unflavored e-liquid tastes like tobacco.

But there’s no need to allow the assumptions of a few ignorant anti-vaping zealots to carry the day. This is going to be our chance to shape this regulation. Vapers are the experts on vaping. We know the kinds of flavors we like. And the companies that make e-liquid and sell it know what flavors their customers buy. This information needs to flood the FDA rulemaking conversation.

Vaping360 will certainly cover this in more detail when the ANPRM is formally announced — and we’ll ask industry and consumer advocates for advice on what to include in comments. But start thinking now about what you want to tell federal regulators about vaping flavors. Your voice is about to be very, very important to the future of vaping.

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