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What Do You Think of FDA's Gas Station, Convenience Store Ban?

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Last month the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unleashed new laws that bans sales of flavored e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations. Now, these products will only be sold in speciality tobacco and vape stores with age restrictions. Oregon-based News-Review also reports that age verification requirements for online sales will increase, and the FDA plans to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

Specifically, flavors other than tobacco, mint and menthol are said to be banned. While the FDA stands by its apparently interest in curbing the proclaimed “youth vaping epidemic,” what it may fail to realize that in reducing flavor options, adult smokers trying to kick the habit are left out in the cold.

Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner, told CNBC: “We recognize [e-cigarettes] as a viable alternative for adult smokers who want to get access to satisfying levels of nicotine without all the harmful effects of combustion. If we could switch every adult smoker to an e-cigarette, it would have a profound public health impact,” however we’re not sure his actions are backing up his words.

A recent story on Reason.com cites Public Health England’s stat that vaping is 95 percent less hazardous than smoking, and the story’s author says that “making e-cigarettes less appealing and less accessible has a public health cost, measured in smoking-related diseases and deaths that otherwise would not have occurred. Yet that is what the FDA's new restrictions on e-cigarettes, which limit the flavor options in most stores to menthol, mint, and tobacco, will do.”

We agree with the author that enforcement of minimum purchase ages is the way to go, instead of creating harm in restricting flavors because employees at convenience stores are doing their due diligence. Reason also cites another survey of more than 69,000 adult vapers. Only 16 percent said tobacco, menthol or mint flavors were the ones used most often, leaving the majority leaning on fruit and dessert flavors to keep them off analogs. Additionally, Juul’s mango flavor was voted the most popular by 70 percent of respondents.

And, the studies go on and on. It’s proven that former smokers prefer — arguably need — flavors to make the switch and stay off cigarettes, something that the FDA has acknowledged in the recent past. Reason’s author closes with: “But why should adult smokers pay, potentially with their lives, for the carelessness of convenience store clerks? The moral logic of the tradeoff demanded by the FDA escapes me.”

Do you agree? Should flavors be banned in gas stations and liquor stores, or should the FDA be focusing more on carding enforcement?