U.S. government considers ban on flavored e-cigarettes over youth 'epidemic'

Henrietta Strickland
September 14, 2018

Almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and research shows that young adults who smoke or who use e-cigarettes are much more likely to binge drink than nonsmokers, the health department said. "It's an unfortunate tradeoff".

Last year, the FDA announced that it would delay regulations that could have halted the sales of many e-cigarettes. Big tobacco has yet to find a productive way to meaningfully compete against Juul, making the FDA's move a positive for the companies, according to Cowen analyst Vivien Azer.

It cited estimates from Public Health England that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than normal cigarettes.

The FDA said it has sent more than 1,100 warning letters to stores for the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to under-age vapers and issued fines to another 131 shops. But it's not clear how quickly the decision could be reversed.

"Today, we asked five e-cigarette manufacturers to put forward plans to immediately and substantially reverse these trends, or face a potential decision by the FDA to reconsider extending the compliance dates for submission of premarket applications", Gottlieb said.

Despite the fact that not one person casted a vote for Gottlieb, his board at the FDA has the future of flavored e-cigarettes in their hands.

"Our mission is to improve the lives of adult smokers by providing them with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes". The upshot could be less switching and therefore more smoking-related deaths.

The warning from the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday marks a stark shift in the agency's tone on e-cigarettes, including the popular Juul brand and others, which have become the most used tobacco product among teenagers. But that number includes respondents who reported vaping at all during the previous month, even just once. They included chains such as 7-Eleven, Casey's General Store, Circle K, Cumberland Farms, Kwik Trip, Sheetz, Speedway, Tom Thumb and Wawa, as well as gas station banners like BP, Chevron, Citgo, Conoco, Exxon, Marathon, Mobil, Murphy USA, Phillips, RaceTrac, Shell, Sunoco, Texaco and Valero.

The commissioner has repeatedly agreed that e-cigarettes can be an effective tool for adults trying to quit smoking, so his harsh words for the industry on Wednesday were all the more remarkable.

The Food and Drug Administration is anxious about the latest teenage craze. 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.

According to the Washington Post, the preliminary data is from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, and it shows a 75 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students in 2018 compared to 2017.

The ability of manufacturers to prevent underage consumption is, in any case, pretty limited.

Manufacturers offer and market e-cigarette flavors that appeal to minors, including candy, bubble gum, and fruit flavors.

"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", Gottlieb said. If underage consumption does not justify a ban on tobacco cigarettes (and I don't think it does), it can not possibly justify a ban on competing products that are much safer.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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