The FDA Threatens To Ban Vaping Products Due To Teenage Use

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The agency may also ban sales of some flavored e-cigarette products, which Gottlieb says are particularly appealing to underage users, and consider shortening a grace period that now gives e-cigarette companies until 2022 to apply for FDA approval.

The FDA warns that teenage use of e-cigs has reached "epidemic proportions" (2m middle and high school students reportedly used e-cigarettes regularly last year).

Members of Congress, particularly Democrats, have been pressuring the FDA to address the trends in young people's use of e-cigarettes, and Wednesday's announcement was met with praise by lawmakers such as Illinois Democratic Sen.

"We must do more to stem what I see as an epidemic of use of e-cigs among teens, and deeply disturbing trends that show no sign of abating", he said. "We can not allow a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine", he said. The products being targeted are: Juul, MarkTen by the Altria Group, the maker of Malboro cigarettes in the US, Blu by Fontem Ventures, Vuse, by British American Tobacco, the company that makes Camel cigarettes, and a device called Logic.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared teen e-cigarette use an epidemic today, threatening to slap manufacturers including Juul with crushing fines if they don't present plans to curb sales to minors.

But Gottlieb said in an address at FDA headquarters that he failed to predict the current "epidemic of addiction" among youth, mainly driven by flavored products. More than 2 million middle and high school students were users of e-cigarettes in 2017, according to the agency. "By working together, we believe we can help adult smokers while preventing access to minors". The FDA's four-year delay on that requirement has allowed the industry to flourish with little oversight.

"Let me be clear, everything is on the table and this includes the resources of both our civil and our criminal enforcement tools", Gottlieb said. As long as some retailers are careless, some adults are willing to buy e-cigarettes on behalf of minors, and some teenagers manage to swipe them from parents or older siblings, there will be leakage from the adult market.

Bottles of flavor packets for e-cigarettes stand displayed in a tobacco shop
Bottles of flavor packets for e-cigarettes stand displayed in a tobacco shop

The FDA's core message: Children must first be protected from becoming addicted to nicotine even if it means less availability of e-cigarettes for adults trying to use the devices to end their tobacco habits.

Dr Gottlieb announced a number of steps the FDA plans to take. But they say that this move like this could backfire because, you know, adults who are - use e-cigarettes are using them to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes, which are really risky.

In its enforcement action, the FDA recently sent nearly 1,200 letters to brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers warning them that they could face penalties for allegedly selling e-cigarettes to people under 18.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said the steps announced by Gottlieb "have the potential to make a fundamental difference". Such grim statistics prompted the FDA to recently propose that the level of nicotine, the addictive substance that gets people hooked, permitted in products should be brought down, either suddenly or gradually over time, to eventually wean people off smoking. Officials said 131 of the retailers will have to pay penalties. Adults tend to use bulkier "open tank" vaping products, he noted.

Ana Navas-Acien, a Columbia University professor who also tracks the issue, said some form of government regulation is needed "as companies are unlikely to implement voluntary strategies to effectively cut use among youth".

Gottlieb echoed those concerns, saying he's anxious about the effects of nicotine in e-cigarettes on the developing brain, and that a proportion of teenagers who use the devices will end up on regular cigarettes.

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