Reynolds American Launches a Nicotine-Free Vape Line

Reynolds American is launching a new line of nicotine-free flavored vapes. But can Big Tobacco really ditch nicotine?

Photo of a person using a JUUL
Photo by Vaping360 via CC BY 2.0

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Can the industry that hooked us on Camels, Pall Malls, and Lucky Strikes change its stripes? 

On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Reynolds American is launching a new line of nicotine-free flavored vapes. It’s just the industry’s latest attempt to undergo a conscious uncoupling from the addictive chemical that keeps consumers coming back in the first place.

Sensa Sensibility

Reynolds American’s Vuse brand of nicotine e-cigarettes currently leads the industry by market share. But that industry has now long sat in legal limbo. The FDA requires e-cigarette makers to prove that their products are less harmful than regular cigarettes, a mandate that has bedeviled rival Juul. And last October, the FDA ordered that Reynolds American remove all but its unflavored tobacco Vuse pods from the market; the agency argued the risk of attracting young people via menthol and other flavored pods outweighed the benefits of helping adults switch from regular cigarettes.

Meanwhile, illegal flavored Chinese nicotine pods have flooded the US market quicker than regulators can halt them. By launching its flavored nicotine-free brand, dubbed Sensa, Reynolds American hopes to kill a few birds with one stone:

  • It remains unclear whether nicotine-free e-cigarettes are subject to similar federal oversight as those containing nicotine. For now, at least, Reynolds American tells the WSJ it did not seek regulatory clearance for the product.
  • Six different flavors of Sensa vapes will hit shelves on Monday, at a suggested retail price of $19.99 — slightly higher than most competitors in the disposable e-cigarette space. Reynolds American says it will require retailers to sell the vapes only to customers who are at least 21, though it remains unclear if the law requires such a threshold.

Zynside Out: Philip Morris is also wading through a new era of oversight. Earlier this month, the company halted all online sales of its ultra-popular Zyn oral nicotine pouches to comply with a subpoena from the Washington DC attorney general. Flavored nicotine products are illegal in the capital, but were allegedly still available to residents via the online store. Maybe the arduous process of actually having to leave the house will help some Zyn users kick the habit.

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