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Media Misrepresents Ineffective FDA E-Cig Guidelines

Media reports have given the impression that the new Food and Drug Administration guidelines on e-cigarettes will be successful in addressing the rise in teenage smoking – and that the policies are backed by sound public health research. 

But that is not the case. In fact, there is a great deal of information available that completely refutes the effectiveness of the FDA policy and demonstrates why it might actually make more teenagers smoke.

Members of the media, however, in many cases have failed to accurately report on this important issue. Multiple headlines and articles surrounding this topic are either misleading, misinformed or inaccurate.

Below are just a few examples:

According to the Washington Post, [1] the FDA’s rollout of their vaping policy “makes it harder for minors to buy flavored products,” even though there is no evidence to support the notion that the new regulations will be effective at preventing teens from accessing these flavored products. In reality, about 70 percent of minors [2] who purchase e-cigarettes buy them over the Internet, at vape shops or in tobacco stores. And these three types of retail locations are excluded from the prohibition in the new FDA policy.

Essentially, the FDA is pushing minors to the retailers who, according to research [2], have the worst record of enforcing age restrictions on these products. This will inevitably lead to more minors purchasing e-cigarettes and vaporizers.

Gizmodo’s take on this topic was also misleading, running with the headline [3] “The Great Final Battle Over Your Juul Has Begun.” This story concludes with a dramatic line “it looks like the fate of Juul and other e-cig products are as yet to be determined.”

But Juul would not have supported [4] this FDA policy if they thought it would hurt their business. Thirty percent of minors [2] who purchase e-cigarettes do so online – a larger percentage than any other retail option.

Aside from national media outlets getting the facts wrong, regional media outlets have also released inaccurate reports as well. A local Fox affiliate [5], for example, highlighted their concerns this way: “Vape shops worried as FDA moves to restrict flavored e-cig sales.” But, vape shops actually stand to benefit from this new policy. In fact, they are one of the three types of retail locations that are exempt from these regulations, so more customers (and minors) will be pushed to their businesses. 

A common denominator among most of the news coverage surrounding the FDA policies is a lack of in-depth coverage and analysis necessary to accurately anticipate the guidelines likely effects.