Puff Bar e-cigarettes have taken advantage of the pandemic to market their single use vapes to teenagers, lawmakers claim.
Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to demand Puff Bars pull its products from the market.
The company, which sells the disposable vapes for $9 each in flavors like mango, banana ice and ‘O.M.G.’ has been advertising them as a way to take a ‘solo break’ and ‘escape…from parental texts,’ Krishnamoorthi claims.
Other ads allude to an escape from ‘WFH,’ or working from home, as many adults and students are doing amid the pandemic.
Although a federal ban on flavored vapes went into effect in February, the rule makes an exception for disposable vaping products, a loophole which has allowed Puff sales to surge as it catches up to Juul to corner the market.
Puff Bar sells disposable e-cigarettes in flavors like Blueberry, Mango and Peach Ice to teenagers illegally, lawmakers claim in a letter to the FDA
A Puff Bar ad encourages teenagers to ‘escape from…parental texts’ amid stay-at-home orders put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic
‘Puff Bar is quickly becoming the new JUUL. It is cheap and brightly colored, resembles a JUUL device, and comes in kid-friendly flavors like Mango, Banana Ice, Pink Lemonade, Blue Razz, and O.M.G.,’ wrote Chairman Krishnamoorthi in his letter to the FDA.
‘You owe it to the public health to act now, particularly in light of evidence demonstrating how e-cigarettes lead to worse outcomes for coronavirus patients.’
Puff Bars’ follows all of the same tropes that Juul’s early products did: Its small, easy to conceal, is appealing (it has the same sleek shape but is sold in bright colors) and comes in sweet-sounding flavors.
Juul came under fire for ad campaigns that used models who at least looked like they could be teenagers.
Arguably, Puff’s goes further.
One ad pictures a bedroom (albeit, a rathr adult-looking one, but in what appears to be an attic) and even refers to avoiding parents.
Under the heading, ‘SOLO BREAK,’ it says: ‘We know that the inside-vibes have been… quite a challenge. Stay sane with Puff Bar this solo-break. We know you’ll love it. It’s the perfect escape from the back-to-back zoom calls, parental texts, and WFH stress.’
Krishnamoorthi found no evidence that Puff Bar had applied for or received FDA approval for its products.
The deadline for applications was set for May 12, but extended to September 9, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Like Juul, Puff Bar ads feature young people vaping. It claims in this ad that it has sold out of its products three times in the past year, as it captures more of the e-cig market
And Puff Bar’s devices slipped through another crack in enforcement measures implemented to fight the teen vaping epidemic.
The new regulations apply only to devices that use pre-filled cartridges in flavors besides tobacco or menthol.
They left refillable devices untouched, and simply did not mention disposable ones – gaps that disappointed many health officials and school administrators.
Puff Bars fit neatly into that gap, and says it has sold out of its products three times in the past year.
The FDA’s new rules on e-cigarettes do not mention disposable products, allowing them to slip through the regulatory cracks
Krishnamoorthi pointed out a particular cause for urgency in pulling the products from shelves: e-cigarettes like Puff Bars could put users at risk for more severe illness from the very COVID-19 pandemic the company’s ads use to encourage consumers to buy its products.
Research has suggested that both smoking and, perhaps more so, vaping, could make people more susceptible to coronavirus, and make their infectios worse.
‘[A colleague and pulmonologist] had a couple of unusually sick young people with COVID show up, and they were vapers,’ Dr Stanton Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, told DailyMail.com in a recent interview.
‘A plural of anecdote is not evidence but it is certainly consistent with that view.’
Dr Glantz explained that vaping and respiratory infections act like a one-two punch on the lungs and immune system, and amplify one another’s effects.
‘Markers of immune function and suppression are actually bigger in vapers than in smokers’ he said.
‘In terms of immunosuppressant and inflammatory effects, e-cigarettes might be doing more bad things than cigarettes – but both are really bad.’
And Puff Bar’s marketing suggests it is encouraging young people to increase their risks of these harmful effects, Krishnamoorthi claims.
‘Puff Bar…appears to be taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to explicitly—and illegally—sell its products to school children,’ he wrote.