In a concession to critics of vaping, the Chinese manufacturer of Elf Bar has announced it will end British sales of disposable vapes in flavors based on popular soft drinks, candy and desserts. It isn’t known if manufacturer IMiracle plans changes to Elf Bar flavors in other countries.
The self-imposed United Kingdom ban will apply to both the Elf Bar and Lost Mary brands. The two brands together account for more than half of all disposable vapes sold in the UK, according to NielsenIQ. Elf Bar has already ended UK sales of Bubble Gum and Cotton Candy flavors, and renamed Gummy Bear “Gami,” according to the BBC.
The decision, meant to short-circuit claims that the popular disposable vapes are marketed to youth, will probably embolden prohibitionist groups that oppose the very existence of vaping. The United Kingdom and many European countries have experienced a panic over youth vaping and disposable vapes for the past two years.
In October, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak proposed changes to vaping laws that could include taxes, limits on flavors, and a ban on disposable vapes. A public consultation is currently underway to determine exactly which actions to take.
The Elf Bar move will do nothing to quiet critics—or to quench UK demand for popular flavors among both youth and adults. Chinese manufacturers of off-brand and counterfeit products will surely step in to fill many convenience store shelves with products in the canceled flavors.
In November 2018, Juul Labs voluntarily ended sales of refill pods in flavors other than tobacco, menthol and mint (and stopped selling mint in 2019). The decision, intended to calm the moral panic over a supposed “youth vaping epidemic,” had no effect on criticism of Juul by public health officials and tobacco control groups, but did help to create a huge market of unauthorized “Juul-compatible” pods in a multitude of flavors.
In the United States, no Elf Bar product has been authorized by the FDA, and the agency has targeted the Elf brand especially in its enforcement war against disposable vapes. The agency has issued warning letters to retailers, distributors and importers, sought large fines from repeat offenders, and ordered FDA import inspectors to detain Chinese Elf Bar shipments.