Virginia Lawmakers Pass Bill to Remove Flavored Vape Products

Virginia flavored vape products FDA approval

Virginia is on the verge of implementing a new law that would pull flavored vape products lacking Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval from store shelves. The identical bills, sponsored by Del. Rodney Willett (D-Henrico) and Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Charlottesville), have passed both chambers of the state legislature and now await Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s signature.

Lawmakers Aim to Curb Underage Vaping and Protect Consumers

Willett and Deeds argue that their legislation would eliminate around 50% of illegal, unregulated vapor and e-cigarette products currently sold in Virginia. The lawmakers emphasize that the bill’s primary intent is to curb underage vaping, as no flavored e-cigarettes or vapes have received FDA approval, a measure they believe is designed to deter youth consumers.

“It’s a very serious situation, and what this bill is intended to do is protect children,” Willett told the Virginia Mercury. “It’s to protect adults who are lawful consumers and then also the wholesalers and retailers themselves.”

The proposed legislation would create a registry of non-flavored, FDA-approved products that can be sold in Virginia, including those currently undergoing the agency’s application process. Deeds explained that the registry’s purpose is to identify “products that have been inspected and authorized and somebody’s looked at them.”

Support and Opposition to the Bill

Several businesses have expressed support for the bill, as they want to ensure they are selling legal products and protect consumers from ingesting undisclosed, harmful chemicals found in unlawful vaping products. Altria, the only company in Virginia with FDA-approved vapor products, has also backed the legislation, with spokesman Steve Callahan calling it “a common sense solution.”

However, opponents argue that the bill primarily benefits big tobacco companies at the expense of small businesses and Virginians trying to quit smoking through vapor products. Tony Abboud, representing the Vapor Technology Association, warned that the legislation could drive smokers back to traditional cigarettes or the black market if their preferred vaping products are removed from stores.

Concerns Over Economic Impact and FDA Approval Process

Sen. Glen Sturtevant (R-Chesterfield), the sole legislator to vote against the bill, raised concerns about the potential economic repercussions, “draconian” penalties for noncompliance, and the selective nature of the FDA approval process. An analysis by economic research firm John Dunham and Associates projects that nearly 1,820 Virginians could lose their jobs, and the state could suffer a loss of $252.8 million in economic activity if the ban on flavored vapor products is enacted.

Sturtevant also pointed out that the FDA’s Premarket Tobacco Product Application process, which the bill relies on for regulating vapor products, has been deemed unlawful by two federal circuit courts due to the agency’s “arbitrary and capricious” decision-making.

Protecting Children vs. Adult Choice

Despite the concerns raised by opponents, Deeds and Willett remain committed to the bill, believing it is a necessary step towards protecting children from illegal, harmful products. “In some cases, we need to put the interests of our children over those adults who are looking for more choice,” Willett said. “There are choices for adults, it’s just they’re limited in order to protect children.”

Gov. Youngkin has until April 8 to veto or sign the legislation into law. Deputy Communications Director Macaulay Porter stated that “the Governor is reviewing the legislation that has been delivered to his desk.”

As Virginia awaits the governor’s decision, the debate surrounding the balance between protecting youth from harmful products and preserving adult choice in the vaping industry continues.

Sophia Bennett