United States plans crackdown on e-cigarette firms citing 'epidemic' teen use

Henrietta Strickland
September 13, 2018

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering a ban on flavored e-cigarettes in response to what it warned is an "epidemic" of young people using the devices and getting hooked on nicotine, it was announced on Wednesday. The agency issued 12 warning letters to companies they declared have deceptive marketing labels on e-liquids.

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency will soon release data that show a "substantial increase" in youth vaping this year compared with 2017.

"Critically, FDA for the first time recognizes that it must be addressed by requiring that manufacturers remove flavored products from the market unless those products have been reviewed by FDA, alter current marketing practices, eliminate online sales and take significant steps to curtail illegal sales to kids", Myers said.

"The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we're seeing in youth and the resulting path to addiction must end", Gottlieb told agency staffers and reporters. "Appropriate flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch", Burns said in a statement.

"Our mission is to improve the lives of adult smokers by providing them with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes". They're generally considered a less unsafe alternative to regular cigarettes.

Health advocates have anxious about the popularity of vaping products among kids and the potential impact on smoking rates in the future. Nearly 12% of high school students and 3% of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes in the prior 30 days.

Gottlieb cited unreleased federal figures that he says will be made public in coming months.

"I've been warning the e-cigarette industry for more than a year that they needed to do much more to stem the youth trends", he said. Shares of cigarette and e-cigarette maker Altria Group also rose more than 6 percent, while Philip Morris International shares were up 4 percent.

"We are committed to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people", he added.

The FDA found top-selling brands were popular among minors. The FDA's delay on that requirement has allowed the industry to flourish with little oversight. The FDA is demanding what Gottlieb describes as "plans to immediately and substantially reverse" the "clear and present danger" of adolescent vaping. More generally, the FDA wants Juul and the other companies to contemplate "the particular youth appeal of their products", which involves features, such as style and convenience, that adults also happen to like.

Shares of British American Tobacco were up almost 6 percent and shares of cigarette-maker Imperial Brands PLC were up more than 3 percent.

"I have grown increasingly concerned around what we see as rising youth use in these products, and I'm disappointed in the actions the companies have taken to try to address this", Gottlieb said at a press briefing.

However, he seemed reluctant to give up on flavored nicotine, because he said it appeals to adult cigarette smokers.

The FDA has given five companies - Vuse, Blu, JuuL, MarkTen XL, and Logic- 60 days to come up with a plan to keep teenagers from using its devices and sent warning letters to 1,300 companies that it caught selling the device to minors. This is the largest single enforcement action in agency history. E-cigs deliver lower toxin levels than regular cigarettes, but users can inhale more of the addictive stimulant nicotine.

"I'm here to tell them today that this prior approach is over", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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