Published: Thu, September 13, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

FDA proposed crackdown on flavored e-cigs puts Juul on notice

FDA proposed crackdown on flavored e-cigs puts Juul on notice

US health officials are sounding the alarm about teenage use of e-cigarettes, calling the problem an "epidemic" and ordering manufacturers to reverse the trend or risk having their flavored vaping products pulled from the market.

Despite the fact that they can not legally be sold to anyone under 18, e-cigarettes - hand-held vaporizers that create aerosols from liquids typically packed with nicotine and other chemicals, often including flavorings - are now the most popular tobacco product among high school students, recent federal data shows.

"We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, and we must adjust certain aspects of our comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger", said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement.

The organisation warned the country's five largest e-cigarette makers that their products - Juul, Blu, MarkTen, Vuse and Logic - could be banned unless the companies could prove within 60 days that they had effective plans to stop sales to children.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a nicotine liquid into a vapor that can be inhaled.

"We're especially focused on the flavored e-cigarettes". But Gottlieb said the easy availability of e-cigarettes is hitting teens.

He said the FDA move could "represent a fundamental turning point" if the agency requires "all of these products undergo premarket review now, not four years from now".

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"I think it became clear to FDA that if they didn't get their arms around this issue the use of these products by kids across the nation would undo decades of progress", said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Inevitably what we are going to have to contemplate are actions that may narrow the off-ramp for adults who see e-cigarettes as a viable alternative to combustible tobacco in order to close the on-ramp for kids", he told reporters.

The agency plans to issue data showing "substantial increase" in youth using e-cigarettes - otherwise known as vaping - this year compared with 2017. The FDA's delay on that requirement has allowed the industry to flourish with little oversight. It is also illegal for retail merchants to sell e-cigarette products to youth under age 18.

San Francisco-based Juul, which commands over 60 percent of the e-cigarette market, said it is working to prevent underage use of its products but added that flavors can help adult smokers quit cigarettes. But spokeswoman Victoria Davis said "appropriate flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch". "Hindsight, and the data that's now available to us, fully reveal these trends".

"In my view, they treated these issues like a public relations challenge rather than seriously considering their legal obligations, the public health mandate, and the existential threat to these products".

Investors in Juul's competitors appeared to welcome the FDA announcement.

And some of the retailers that received warning letters are still advertising and selling these products, he said. Today's effort notches up that action, becoming, said Gottlieb, the "largest ever coordinated initiative against violative sales in the history of the FDA". The crackdown marks a shift in the agency's policy.

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