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The Vuse Solo and the Vuse Solo Original Tobacco flavored cartridge were approved by the FDA. Announced on the FDA website, these are the first electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDs) to pass through the Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) approval process.
The PMTA application process consists of multiple steps through which the FDA reviews vaping products. The purpose of PMTAs is to assess the public health impact of new tobacco products. Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDs) fall under the tobacco umbrella.
Manufactured by RJ Reynolds, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, the Vuse Solo is a mass produced cigalike that was launched in 2013. It is not a huge surprise that a tobacco flavored e-cig manufactured by Big Tobacco is the first vape product to receive a Marketing Granted Order (MGO).
The fate of Vuse Solo Menthol flavor is not yet known but the 10 characterizing flavors they submitted for approval were received Marketing Denial Orders (MDOs).
The ten flavored Vuse Solo cartridges had already been removed from the market in January 2020 by the federal ban on prefilled vape pods. Popular salt nic vape pods were the target but rule makers were unable to craft language which did not also knock out older prefilled cartridge designs and cigalikes. It is unclear if all flavored vapes will share this fate and be rejected by the FDA. One must hope this was an acknowledgement of the early ban.
The Vuse Solo is a dated piece of hardware but worth review. Hopefully, it remains a time capsule of vaping’s past rather than a glimpse into a grim future.
The Vuse Solo is a basic cig-a-like. It adheres to several basic principles, which still hold true today. Most adult vapers just want a compact, easy to use device that delivers satisfying performance. Unfortunately, the Vuse Solo was clearly judged by the marketplace as not delivering this well enough and was soon superseded by newer technology.
The Vuse Solo is draw-activated. The snap and go cartridges hold 0.5ml of e-juice. The Vuse Solo uses a proprietary charger, much like the Vuse Alto and Juul. There is no cross compatibility with mini-USB, USB-C, or any other common cord. The Vuse Solo uses freebase nicotine but at the rather hefty nicotine strength of 4.8 percent.
The Vuse Solo measures 120mm x 10mm. It is longer than a combustible cigarette but approximately the same diameter. Weighing only 15 grams, it possible to hold it in your mouth and operate it hands free like an actual cigarette. But hard plastics makes this less than enjoyable than it may sound on paper. A pliable plastic or silicone mouthpiece would greatly improve this aspect of the Vuse Solo experience.
The Vuse Solo does deliver when it comes to simplicity. All you do is charge it and snap on a cartridge. What you see is what you get.
The Vuse Solo was built at a time when the gold standard was imitating the smoking experience. It has a tight draw meant to mimic a filtered cigarette.
It was not engineered for long drags. The second-generation cartridge of the Vuse Solo is slightly improved, but any inhalation of more than 2 seconds has a good chance of kicking out a dry hit.
Despite marketing copy that touts a special “digital vapor delivery processor”, ramp up speed is slow compared to a more modern device. Today’s disposable vapes and the eGo cartomizers of 2013 both utilize a cotton polyfill design, the Vuse Solo has a wrapped coil and cotton. It comes off second best when compared with either. Its larger stablemate the Vuse Vibe has a lower nicotine strength but the far better vapor production more than offsets this difference. In fact, the vapor production on the Vibe is strong enough where the 4.8 percent e-juice found in the Solo would not be viable. This is due to the differences between freebase nicotine, which the Solo uses, and nicotine salts.
The story of the Vuse Solo and its eventual decline in popularity can be traced to the invention of nicotine salt e-juices. In 2013, salt nic juices simply weren’t on the radar. When they appeared, first in the form of Juul, the Vuse Solo went from entry level c-store staple to also-ran overnight.
By the time Juul hit the market, adult vapers had already begun to ditch cigalikes for larger vape pens that could be refilled such as the eGo Twist cartomizer designs and also vape mods.
Mods especially generated better flavor, exponentially more vapor, and thrive with lower nicotine, max-VG juices. Delivering satisfaction through bigger vapor production and less nicotine strength proved more appealing than a freebase nicotine cigalike with wispy puffs.
But mods are large, complex, and relatively thirsty. The more direct competitor to the Vuse Solo is a vape pod kit. Initially, this was just Juul. Then refillable vape pod kits hit the market. These not only had far better performance but allowed for big savings by dint of being refillable.
There isn’t much difference on paper between a Vuse Solo and a Juul. Both have 270mAh batteries. The nicotine strength is comparable: 4.8 percent for the Solo and 5 percent for the more potent Juul. Juul pods hold 0.7ml, which is a bit more than Solo. They are also less prone to dry hits. Compared to a Vaporesso XROS Mini or Smok Novo 4, the Vuse Solo is totally outclassed. With batteries three to four times larger, far more wattage, five times the juice capacity, far superior coils and a universe of flavored juices to choose from, the case for the Vuse Solo becomes pretty scant when a nice refillable vape pod kit will only set you back twenty to thirty dollars.
The big difference is that vape pods are optimized for salt nic juices and the Vuse Solo still uses freebase nicotine. Salt nicotine has a lower pH level, meaning it remains smooth even at higher potencies. It also crosses the blood brain barrier more readily. There is nothing wrong with freebase at lower potencies.
Most vape pods have a coil option designed for these lower nic options, but at the elevated levels found in the Vuse Solo it is found wanting. And the Vuse Solo can only function when it is filled with a potent e-juice because the vapor production is minimal. Nothing wrong with this approach, it is just that nic salts are more efficient.
Keep in mind, harshness was presented as feature back when the Vuse Solo was launched in 2013. There are still vapers who look for a throat hit and feel it adds authenticity to Mouth-to-Lung vaping. The original Blu E-Cigs also had a high nicotine strength using freebase nicotine.
The Vuse Solo uses high-PG juice. This was fairly common in 2013, and was the preferred fuel for cigalikes. Compared to max-VG juice or nic salts, there is a lot less vegetable glycerin in the mix. This means less vapor and more flavor. These distinctions were once the currency of the vaping realm, but designs like the Vuse Solo have faded from the cutting edge to behind the shelf at a local gas station.
The Vuse Solo has been largely supplanted in their lineup. The Vuse Alto was designed from the ground up as a salt nic vape pod and is Vuse’s flagship model. Vapers looking for a freebase cigalike with lower nic are steered by Vuse to 1.5 percent nicotine strength Vuse Cero. They also have a third freebase device that uses less potent freebase nicotine in the Vuse Vibe. The Vuse Vibe holds 1.9ml of e-juice and has a nicotine strength of 3 percent.
But the biggest gains in vaping performance are to be found when you step out of the gas station and into a vape shop, be it brick and mortar or online.
Salt nic juice and refillable vape pod kits are comprehensively superior to the Vuse Solo. You have a wider selection of lower nicotine options, tastier flavors, less waste is generated, and you can save money in the process. Modern refillable vape pod kits are still small and autodraw. With devices like the Vuse Solo, the Vuse Alto, Juul and disposable vapes you are paying extra for the privilege of not squeezing juice from a bottle into a pod.
The nicotine strength in the Vuse Solo is high, but the total amount of vapor generated is quite low. The net result is an entry level device that was middling at the time and thoroughly outshined by salt nic vape pod kits and disposable vapes in 2021.
The Vuse Solo has always focused heavily on Tobacco flavor. Most adult vapers prefer flavored e-juices and have been looking elsewhere for the better part of a decade.
The Vuse Solo flavors barred in the 2020 federal flavor ban were Berry, Crema, Nectar, Melon, Mint, Chai, Tropical and Fusion.
Fans of Mexican food should note that Crema was not a sour cream flavor with a blast of salt. The Vuse naming convention was a bit odd. Menthol is a pure cold flavor and Mint is the tobacco and menthol blend.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Vuse Solo flavors, or the signature Original Tobacco. It has a decent enough tobacco flavor, if that is what you are looking for. The lack of vapor production, which is a requirement because otherwise the freebase nicotine formula would be super harsh, is propped up by decent flavor profiles which were excellent when still available in the larger Vuse Vibe.
It makes perfect sense that the Vuse Solo was the first device approved in the PMTA process. It is a real throwback and only available in Menthol and Tobacco. As a starter kit, it is functional and compact. It fills an important role in initiating combustible smokers into vaping.
Hopefully, the PMTA process does not weed out the many superior devices and flavors which are still available on the market.
Backed wit Big Tobacco money, the Vuse Solo always had a much better chance of navigating the PMTA process.
Altria’s partnership with Juul, a vape pod kit that was so popular with minors that it is widely reported to be the catalyst for the teen vaping epidemic, has a similar advantage.
It is important to note that Big Tobacco does not suffer if the flavors most popular with adult vapers are banned. They still have their wide array of combustible cigarettes available everywhere and vapes that are available only in tobacco flavors due to the federal flavor ban on prefilled pods and cartridges.
Big Tobacco already benefited from the passing of the PACT Act. They own the shelf space. Chasing off online retailers of vaping products creates a whole new class of customers.
The PACT Act and PMTA are beginning to look a lot like regulatory capture. Regulatory capture is when government agencies are dominated by the largest stakeholders in the industries they are meant to regulate. Public interest takes a backseat. Independent vape companies have been left out in the cold during the decision-making process. The proof is in the restrictions that have passed. Except for Tobacco 21, online retailers of open systems have borne the brunt of the PACT Act and stand to lose everything if the PMTA process proves to punitive.
Senators continue to cross a line set by the Supreme Court case Pillsbury v. The Federal Trade Commission, pressuring the FDA to reject all flavored vaping products.
The wealthiest Americans ceased smoking long ago, and nicotine consumption or addiction simply is not on their radar. This is why total nicotine abstinence is so often suggested as the only viable option for vapers who do not like tobacco flavored e-juices. That they might be funneled back onto combustible cigarettes and into the arms of Big Tobacco is largely ignored.
For any other risky adult behavior, a recommendation of total abstinence would surely be mocked. Vaping demolished nicotine replacement therapy as a cessation method in a New England Journal of Medicine Study, yet the patch and gums are still presented as a panacea by anti-vapers. They seek a world where no one is addicted to nicotine, an admirable goal, what they may end up getting is a Big Tobacco monopoly on cigarette alternatives and increases in the smoking rate.
Mad Vapes has no interest in selling our products to minors and have extensive safeguards in place to prevent our products from falling into the hands of minors. This includes industry leading age verification software and an adult signature upon delivery policy for all our orders. The PMTA process and PACT Act are challenges faced by the industry, but we are in it for the long haul.
UK versus PMTA
If you are tracking PMTA and PACT Act, it is impossible not to watch with envy as the United Kingdom embraces a compassionate and science-based approach to vaping. The UK’s National Health Service promotes e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool on their website Using E-Cigarettes to Stop Smoking.
They can avoid the highly paid lobbyists and activists because they are an enormous organization with skin in the game. The NHS only cares about the bottom line. The hobby horses of billionaires are of no consequence. The NHS only adopts measures that work and are cost-effective. Treatment modalities found lacking on are given the axe. Myriad alternative medicines, homeopathy and supplements have gotten the axe, despite support for these treatments by the elites in UK society such as Prince Charles.
The UK hosts a website titled and has begun a process through which vaping products can be prescribed by doctor. This is no small deal as it will allow prescription drug coverage for vaping products. We covered the UK’s prescription vape initiative in a previous feature. Covering the cost of vaping for the most marginalized citizens in the most recent NHS initiative. On this side of the pond, approving an e-cig that peaked in popularity 7 years ago is the best we can do.
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