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In Bad Taste The FDA and the War on Flavors
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In Bad Taste? The FDA and the War on Flavors

When someone says ‘flavor’ to you, what pops into your head? Regardless of what you thought, there is a non-zero chance that most people will have said ‘nothing’. Yet, according to the FDA and the continued revisions regarding the rules on vaping, this is exactly what the term ‘flavored’ means. According to a recent Marketing Denial Order (MDO) sent to an unnamed vaping manufacturer, the FDA has not only moved the goalposts, but they’ve also lost the ball (and the plot) too. 

Why? Because, according to the FDA, any vape product that doesn’t taste like tobacco or menthol is ‘flavored’. Yes, that includes completely unflavored e-juice too. 

The above declaration represents trouble in more ways than one for vaping and public health in general. Today you are going to find out why.

Riddle Us This

Here’s a quick brain teaser.

When is something unflavored, flavored? 

Don’t think too hard. 

The answer is when you are a vape manufacturer making a product that reduces the likelihood of people smoking. Think that sounds stupid? This is exactly what the FDA is claiming. Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s a direct quote from a footnote in a recently issued MDO:

“The term flavored ENDS also includes unflavored “base” e-liquids that are designed to have flavors added to them. This includes e-liquids made for use with open systems as well as closed system ENDS (e.g., cartridges or disposable ENDS) containing e-liquids.”

 Yes, you read that right. Let’s read it again together for posterity:

“The term flavored ENDS also includes unflavored….”

Hold it there. 

The above seven words should tell you all you need to know. It highlights, far better than we ever could hope to, the continued contradiction and ‘double think’ that seems to be running through the brains (if there is such a thing) of the FDA.

How can something unflavored be considered ‘flavored’?

The truth is, it can’t. You don’t need to be a lawyer to see it either. The dictionary definition of ‘flavored’ is as follows:

a substance or extract that provides a particular taste”…

How and why has the FDA reached the above conclusion? Simply because it doesn’t suit their narrative. As each day passes and the vaping community becomes more and more outraged, the FDA’s grasp on reality becomes plainer for all to see.

Resentfulness aside, the above presents problems for the continued future of vaping.

Here’s why.

Do it Yourself and Vaping

Finish the following well-known saying:

“If you want a job done properly….” 

Making your own e-juice could have been one such way that vapers could have circumvented the problems that the FDA’s ‘carpet bombing’ of the vaping industry has caused. Vapers can mix their own liquid using only three ingredients. It should be noted that the liquids vapers mix are entirely identical to those supplied by vape stores and manufacturers. 


Indeed, in fact, all ejuice, whether ‘made at home’ or ‘store bought’, contains the following:

Food flavorings, one of the three ‘additives’ mixed into e-liquid. They are perfectly legal and have been consumed by millions of people for decades.

The second of the trio?

The dilutant and main ‘body’ of E-liquid, vegetable glycerin, or propylene glycol have also been used in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of consumed products worldwide. Had a salad dressing in the last week? How’s about a flavored tea, or a nice ice cream? All of the above contain PG. It also happens to be where the ‘smoke’ comes from when you go to a rock concert, and nobody suggests any of the above is harmful to health.

Want to hear more FDA doublethink? Here’s a quote from a document produced by none other than the FDA:

 “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified propylene glycol as “generally

recognized as safe,” which means that it is acceptable for use in flavorings, drugs, and cosmetics.”

Failing to see a problem with e-juice so far?

“Aha! But what about the nicotine?

That’s the third part.

The nicotine used in vapes contains no tobacco. While it is tobacco-derived, there are now alternatives available that mean it can be made 100% tobacco-free. However, to quote the MDO again, the FDA’s ruling; “also includes unflavored “base” e-liquids that are designed to have flavors added to them”.

Base liquids? Yes, they are talking about PG and VG. It effectively removes the option for vapers as nicotine added to homemade juice comes in unflavored ‘base’ bottles.

A Contradiction in Terms?

The insanity gets worse.

How is that possible? 

Let’s go back to the same footnote. It goes on to state:

“The term flavored ENDS in this review refers to any ENDS other than tobacco-flavored and menthol-flavored ENDS.” 

Wait, what?

So, anything that isn’t flavored is bad and must be withdrawn, but things that are designed to actually taste the same as a real cigarette are still up for review?

What other plans has the FDA got in its back pocket that is “appropriate for the protection of public health”? Perhaps we could hand out whisky-flavored candy at an AA meeting? Or offer dieters the option of adding some bacon fries to their salad?

The FDA’s main selling point during the almost non-stop issuance of MDOs is that they are aiming to protect the youth from smoking. It has been proven that in the absence of electronic nicotine devices, more youths become smokers. We’ve just seen the biggest decline of smokers in a generation suddenly experience a hiatus.

Putting aside the tobacco lunacy just for a moment, why menthol, in particular, gets special treatment is perhaps a little fishy. 

It was only earlier this year that the FDA announced a total war on menthol cigarettes. The headline on their website states:

“Efforts to ban menthol cigarettes, ban flavored cigars [sic] build on previous flavor ban and mark significant steps to reduce addiction and youth experimentation.”

Again, the disparity is glaring. Menthol cigarettes are the devil, yet menthol vapes are worthy of ‘unique considerations’?


Well, consider this.

Tobacco and menthol seem such an odd combination. Especially considering that both are what the FDA seeks to stamp out. Yet, there is a company out there that only produces menthol and tobacco flavored products.

Can you guess the companies name? It starts with a ‘J’.

If you said Juul, you’d be right on the money. 

Guess who owns Juul? Big tobacco, that’s who.

Depending on their own pre-market tobacco application outcome, Juul could be in for a windfall. They might be allowed to effectively corner the vape market and sell a product designed to emulate cigarettes’ taste. And if people switch back to smoking, so what?

The Reason Foundation, an organization whose own tagline is “seeking truth through rational discourse”, makes an interesting point when stating that “the FDA is saving the cigarette”.

People on social media echo this sentiment:

Banning novel flavors while favoring those who’ve encouraged smoking for years and are still producing products that are the closest thing you can get to tobacco? Appropriate for the protection of public health? 

That leaves a pretty bad taste, whatever the flavor.

In Summary

The FDA continues to issue MDO’s to suppliers who have helped people quit smoking while offering ‘unique considerations’ to those who have actively promoted it for decades. There is a smell in the air. It is one which the vaping community has become very familiar with, especially when talking about the FDA’s policy decisions to date. Removing even non-flavored liquids from the market while giving time and credence to those flavors owned by big tobacco could be a sign of the FDA’s endgame. The flavor of hypocrisy? Absolutely.

Jamie Author Pic

Jamie Gann

Jamie is a Staff Writer for Versed Vaper with nearly 10 years of industry experience. After being a smoker for several years, Jamie discovered vaping when a friend bought him his first setup. Before joining the team, he spent three years as the Manager of a local vape shop, gaining practical experience with everything from pod vapes to rebuildable atomizers. He has also previously worked as a freelance writer for other tech and vaping media websites. Jamie now uses his knowledge and experience to educate others through his reviews. You’ll find Jamie on the weekend, toolkit in hand, surrounded by box mods, wicks, and wires, trying to get the perfect cloud.

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