WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Altria, a leading manufacturer of e-vapor products, announced it will pull two pod-based products and all but three varieties of “cig-a-like” products off the market.
The announcement came in a written response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) letter sent to Altria and four other manufacturers of e-vapor products in September. The FDA letter expressed concerns over the reported increase in the use of e-vapor products by young people and urged the manufacturers to pledge preventative action.
The Altria response, signed by Howard A. Willard III, chairman and CEO of Altria, noted that the company will remove from the market MarkTen Elite and Apex by MarkTen pod-based products “until we receive a market order from FDA or the youth issue is otherwise addressed.”
In addition, for the remaining MarkTen and Green Smoke cig-a-like products, “we will sell only tobacco, menthol and mint varieties. We will discontinue the sale of all other flavor variants of our cig-a-like products until we receive a market order from FDA or the youth issue is otherwise addressed,” the letter said.
Altria also pledged to support federal legislation to establish 21 as the minimum age for purchasing any tobacco product nationwide, bans on vaping in school, user fees for e-vapor products and prohibiting self-service displays at retail stores.
The letter noted that “we believe e-vapor products present an important opportunity for adult smokers to switch from combustible cigarettes. Yet, the current situation with youth use of e-vapor products, left unchecked, has the potential to undermine that opportunity for adult smokers. Because we believe in the long-term promise of e-vapor products and harm reduction, we are taking immediate action to address this complex situation.”
The letter added that Altria doesn’t think there is a youth issue with its own products, but doesn’t want to contribute to the issue. The company noted that it does not use television, radio, billboard or transit advertising, it targets all marketing toward adults and it sends direct mail and email communications only to verified individuals age 21 or older. Event sponsorship with brand names, such as MarkTen, is not allowed, and the company never distributes branded merchandise, other than accessories such as USB battery chargers.
As it applies to Altria’s online sales of e-vape products, the letter added that there are controls in place to ensure that all online customers are of the proper age, including a requirement to submit a government-issued identification to prove they are at least 21 before making a purchase.