The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued marketing denial orders (MDOs) for R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co.’s Vuse Vibe Tank Menthol 3.0 percent and the Vuse Ciro Cartridge Menthol 1.5 percent.
“Consistent with the authorities granted by Congress, the FDA remains committed to evaluating new tobacco product applications based on a public health standard that considers the risks and benefits of the tobacco product to the population as a whole,” said Brian King, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “The applications for these products did not present sufficient scientific evidence to show that the potential benefit to adult smokers outweighs the risks of youth initiation and use.”
“Existing evidence demonstrates that nontobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, have a known and substantial risk with regard to youth appeal, uptake and use; in contrast, data indicate tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes do not have the same appeal to youth and therefore do not pose the same degree of risk,” the FDA wrote in a statement.
“Given these existing differences in youth risk, applicants need to provide robust evidence to demonstrate that using their menthol-flavored e-cigarette products are likely to promote a complete switch or are likely to significantly reduce combustible cigarette use in adult smokers beyond that facilitated by tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products. Data from the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that Vuse was the second most common brand youth e-cigarette users reported ‘usually’ using.”
“Today’s decision pertains to the specific application submitted for review by FDA,” said King. “It is the responsibility of the applicant to provide sufficiently robust scientific evidence to demonstrate that the necessary public health standard has been met. In this case, the presented evidence did not meet that standard.”
In assessing the implications of the most recent MDOs for RJRV’s parent company, BAT, Morgan Stanley noted that Vuse Vibe and Vuse Ciro represent only a small portion of BAT’s overall e-cigarette sales in the U.S.
“Should it choose to appeal, we would expect its products to remain on the market as the appeal is ongoing, resulting in minimal/no operating impact,” the investment bank wrote in a note to investors.
Morgan Stanley said the MDO provides another example of the FDA’s ongoing reluctance to approve menthol e-cigarette flavors. To date, the agency has approved only tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes.
The financial institution also noted that the FDA has granted both a premarket tobacco product application and modified-risk tobacco product designation to IQOS’ menthol variant, which may make it one of the few menthol reduced-risk alternatives on the market.
The FDA is targeting publishing a final rule to ban menthol cigarettes in August 2023, but considering expected industry litigation, final implementation could be five to six years away, according to Morgan Stanley.