USA threatens ban to fight teenage vaping epidemic

Kenny Tucker
September 14, 2018

Concerned with an "epidemic" surge in teen use of e-cigarettes, on Wednesday the head of the US Food and Drug Administration announced a "historic action" against more than 1,300 retailers and five major manufacturers for their roles in perpetuating youth access to the devices in the US.

E-cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product by kids, with more than 2 million middle and high school kids using the product in 2017, the federal government says.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced the plan Wednesday, saying the agency is giving the manufacturers of Juul, Vuse, MarkTen, Blu, and Logic-which make up more than 97% of the U.S. e-cigarette market-60 days to submit their plans, USA Today reports.

"These alternative nicotine delivery devices can be important for helping adults get off of combustible tobacco as an offramp", said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo on Thursday. Juul, a private company, represents 72 percent of sales, according to Nielsen data compiled by Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie.

"If young adults go online and buy 100 units of a product to sell to teens, that activity ought to be easy for a product manufacturer to identify", said Gottlieb.

"We can not allow a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine", he said.

On the other side of the public health ledger, there is little reason to think that restricting information about ENDS, making them less cool, or banning e-liquid flavors would reduce morbidity and mortality among today's adolescents, either now or in the future.

Stressing that the FDA need to properly evaluate the public health impacts such products have before they can approve them, Gottlieb noted that the speed in which e-cigarettes have appeared and spread hasn't given them enough time to do just that.

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As part of its plan of action to address the epidemic, the FDA also sent more than 1,300 warning letters to stores for the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to minors and issued another 131 civil money penalties to stores that continued to violate the restrictions on sales to minors. According to the NYTS, the incidence of past-month smoking among high school students fell from 15.8 percent in 2011 to 7.6 percent in 2017.

"I believe certain flavors are one of the principal drivers of the youth appeal of these products".

The FDA is trying to set up a framework for regulating e-cigarettes.

"We're committed to the comprehensive approach to address addiction to nicotine that we announced past year", Gottlieb said. Several of the retailers also were cited for illegally selling the products to minors.

But the other action we would take immediately is look at removing these flavored products in the market.

"JUUL Labs will work proactively with FDA in response to its request", a company spokeswoman said Wednesday. Earlier this year, as criticism of the company mounted, it committed $30 million over the next three years for independent research, youth and parent education and community engagement. "And we're seriously considering a policy change that would lead to the immediate removal of these flavored products from the market".

The FDA has also been revamping its regulation on tobacco, including lowering the amount of nicotine in conventional cigarettes. In 2016, the agency "deemed" that products such as e-cigarettes also were under its jurisdiction and told companies to file applications to market their products by August 2018.

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