Does The FDA Have A Point?
Can you see their point?
As a nation that needs warnings on freshly brewed cups of coffee that ‘this might be hot,’ are the FDA simply protecting us from ourselves?
Warning: This post has nothing to do with coffee.
Look closely at these images, it's hard to tell which is the genuine product, and which is the e-liquid claiming to taste like the product.
Now ask yourself this question:
If you were, (or are) a parent of a young child, let’s say around the age of 7, would you expect them to read the label and find out what the product was before opening it?
Packaging is designed to tell you exactly what you need to know. With one look you recognize what the manufacturers are aiming for, in this instance it’s all about flavor. If you have consumed the original product, you’ll instantly imagine what the e-liquid will taste like.
This is Marketing 101.
You don’t have to wonder what the flavor is, you know from the packaging, and this is why packaging and branding is important for manufacturers.
The following illustrates this point perfectly.
Cadbury’s chocolate, the UK candy manufacturer, have been doing their best to trademark their particular brand of purple. Why? That particular purple is so recognizable, children under the age of 18 months know that ‘that’ purple means chocolate.
Are the e-liquid manufactures showcased in this post aiming their products at children, as claimed by the FDA?
“Companies putting children at risk or enticing youth use are on notice. If you target kids, then we’re going to target you,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.
No, they are not.
The market audience is vapers.
This is not a case of marketing to kids, it is a case of marketing a flavor, using well-known brands to illustrate to the customer the expected flavor.
The real issue here is one of mistaken identity.
Non-vapers, of any age, may mistake these packages as something other than e -liquid, and this is an issue.
Does the FDA really need to clamp down on this type of packaging?
That will depend upon your perception – as a vaper, as a parent, as a non-vaper, or as a bureaucrat.
It might surprise you to know that according to some research, the rates of accidental e-liquid ingestion has gone down since 2015.
‘Pediatric exposures to liquid nicotine have decreased since January 2015, which may, in part, be attributable to legislation requiring child-resistant packaging and greater public awareness of risks associated with electronic cigarette products. Liquid nicotine continues to pose a serious risk for young children. Additional regulation of these products is warranted.’
Indeed, if we put accidental ingestion of e-liquid in context with other calls to the poison control centers, in 2016 we have 136,004 potentially harmful exposures reported of children under the age of 6, to cosmetics and personal care products.
We have 2,075 reported harmful exposures in the same age group regarding e-cigarettes.
136,004 versus 2,075.
The researchers are suggesting it is the childproof caps that are responsible for this decline, and the awareness that adults now have about e-liquid.
How responsible is the packaging for some of these exposures?
Which leads us to discuss the opinion that the Industry has been given enough rope by the FDA and is now hanging itself with it.
The opinion is that some within the Industry have not thought through the ramifications of their packaging, and now we are all suffering the consequences.
Do adults really need to have the image that represents another brand glaring in their face in order for them to buy? Do adults need images of unicorns, and swirly candy and juice boxes?
If vaping is an adult product, then surely, we should ALL be steering away from anything that could represent products designed for children?
This packaging ‘situation’ the industry finds itself in, also leads us directly into the realms of flavors. As mentioned above, the FDA see it that the packaging infers the flavor and attracts the kids to vaping, from there on to smoking, and we all land squarely in the mire of the gateway theory.
It doesn’t matter that the gateway theory has not been proven, and in some cases disproven, flavors are in the FDA’s crosshairs because they see them as enticing children to vaping.
Do we really need the packaging to tell us the flavor? Can we not decide for ourselves? If the e-liquid is good enough, does it need bells and whistles on the box, and (irrespective of trademark infringements) mimicking another products colors or design?
Sometimes we have to think outside the marketing 101 box.
Whose responsibility is it then to be responsible with a product that contains nicotine?
It’s all of ours.
We expect you the customer to be responsible when you buy your e-liquid. We expect you to keep it away from children and pets, buy e-liquid with childproof caps etc. We expect you to behave like an adult.
Nicotine has been classed as a poison. Like all poisons the harm is in the dose, and yes e-liquid is diluted, but we all still need to take care.
We, as an industry need to expect standards from ourselves. We need to make sure that we don’t, as described above, give regulators cause to take away our freedoms. The FDA have sourced the above images, they don’t like what they have found, and so are taking action.
What the ramifications for e-liquid packaging will be after the FDA have done further research is yet unknown. Should the Industry sit up and take notice and take action, then perhaps the packaging will become a non-issue.
That there are only 11 manufacturers highlighted, among the hundreds out there is a positive, but the FDA have done their homework and are using it against us.
Can you see their point, and why they might feel they have to protect us from ourselves?