FDA takes 'historic action' on youth e-cigarette 'epidemic'

FDA puts e-cig makers on notice

Gottlieb announced the agency sent 1,100 warning letters to stores for the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18, and issued 131 fines to stores that continued to violate the restrictions on sales to minors.

Gottlieb said the FDA recognized the impact this might have on adults trying to stop smoking, but said that emerging research on how flavored products encourage excessive use by young people shows action must be taken.

"Unfortunately, I now have good reason to believe that it's reached nothing short of an epidemic proportion of growth", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib said in a briefing.

"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.

Although e-cigarette companies like Juul say they are "not appropriate or intended for youth", many people point to their flavored options, small sizes and USB-charging as proof that teens are exactly who they're targeting.

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. It reserved its strongest action for the manufacturers themselves.


The FDA told five major e-cigarette manufacturers on Wednesday to come up with ways to address youth use in 60 days or the agency could require them to stop selling flavored products that appeal to children. If the FDA sees continued underage use as an argument for banning e-cigarettes, the industry is doomed, even though it offers what the agency recognizes as "an alternative for adult smokers who still seek access to satisfying levels of nicotine, but without all of the harmful effects that come from combustion".

"This is potentially the most important step FDA has taken to curtail youth use of e-cigarettes", said the group's president, Matthew Myers.

"We're committed to the comprehensive approach to address addiction to nicotine that we announced a year ago", Gottlieb said. We must factor in whether these products get kids addicted to nicotine. "Hindsight, and the data that's now available to us, fully reveal these trends".

The burgeoning popularity of e-cigarettes among young smokers has caused traditional cigarette industry players a great deal of trouble by eating into their market share. JUUL pods, which can be bought in fruit or candy flavors, contain the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

The American Medical Association's Dr. Barbara McAneny also said the FDA could do much more, pledging that the association would "continue to advocate for more stringent policies".

USA health officials today said teenage use of e-cigarette has reached "epidemic" levels and are calling on the industry to address the problem. Additionally, 12 online retailers were found to be selling vaping products that were "misleadingly labeled and/or advertised e-liquids resembling kid-friendly food products", in violation of an earlier order from the FDA, and were also slapped with warning letters, according to the announcement. Today's effort notches up that action, becoming, said Gottlieb, the "largest ever coordinated initiative against violative sales in the history of the FDA".

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