Will Godfrey joins us in today's episode to explain a proposed menthol cigarette ban in the United States, and the legal obstacles preventing flavoured vaping products from launching in the United States.
Chapters:0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak 0:27 - FDA rejects vape flavours again 1:36 - Flavours crucial to helping smokers quit 2:55 - Could vape flavour restrictions backfire? 3:49 - Closing remarks
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Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. Today we are speaking with Will Godfrey of Filter about the ongoing situation with menthol and other flavored vapes in the United States. Hi Will. Can you tell us what's been happening recently?
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Will Godfrey: Hi Joanna. Earlier this month, the FDA issued marketing denial orders to six more vaping products, three menthol flavoured and three mixed berry, under its notoriously opaque pre-market tobacco product applications process. The manufacturer in question is R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, demonstrating once again that being a big company with resources for substantial scientific submissions may be necessary to obtain FDA authorisation, but isn't sufficient. The most salient point is that all of the latest products rejected were flavoured, meaning that years into its PMTA journey, the FDA still has not authorised a single non-tobacco flavoured vaping product to be legally marketed and sold. The agency denies that it's blocking flavours on principle, though its actions suggest otherwise.
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Joanna Junak: Why is this important both for flavours in general and menthol in particular?
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Will Godfrey: Well, in general, a growing body of research shows that vape flavors are really important to people who switch from cigarettes, as Kieran Sidhu reported for Filter. For example, a recent large-scale study conducted by Dr. Riccardo Polosa and others found that just 15% of people who vape were using tobacco flavor, which they rated as less effective in keeping them off cigarettes than flavor alternatives. If we don't ensure that flavors are available, in other words, we reduce the life-saving harm reduction efficacy of vapes. Authorities and media, unfortunately, associate flavored vapes with youth uptake, and that is the political problem here. On menthol vapes in particular, they're in the spotlight as the FDA marches inexorably towards a national ban on menthol cigarettes. Many people prefer to avoid tobacco-flavoured vapes because of the constant reminder they may present of smoking, and perhaps similar applies with menthol. But logic also suggests that if people are going to be legally prevented from smoking menthols, then having harm reduction products available that most closely resemble the banned cigarettes is going to be helpful for some looking to switch.
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Joanna Junak: And how are experts reacting to the FDA's actions?
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Will Godfrey: A whole bunch of prominent researchers in this field told Kieran about their concerns. Dr. David Levy, for example, of Georgetown University School of Medicine, has studied the potential public health impacts of a menthols ban. He thinks it will cause a lot of people to switch to vapes. However, if non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes are not available, he said, I expect that many of those who would have switched to e-cigarettes are likely to continue to smoke. Dr. Michael Pesco of the University of Missouri, meanwhile, warned that the FDA's denial of all menthol e-cigarette applications to date could backfire. And Dr. Abigail Friedman of Yale School of Public Health, who's been researching with Pesco and others the effect of vape flavor restrictions on tobacco product sales, told Kieran, given our findings linking flavor restrictions to increased cigarette sales, I am concerned about the path FDA is headed down.
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Joanna Junak: Thank you Will. That's all for today. Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our podcast. You can also find transcriptions of each episode on the GFN TV website. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.