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

U.S. plans crackdown on e-cigarette firms citing 'epidemic' teen use

U.S. plans crackdown on e-cigarette firms citing 'epidemic' teen use

Of the 3.6 million middle and high school students who said in 2017 they were tobacco product users, 2.1 million used e-cigarettes, Bloomberg reports, citing CDC stats. The FDA is now developing a survey to determine what percentage of youth vapers are using Juul products, Gottlieb said.

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.

Manufacturers offer and market e-cigarette flavors that appeal to minors, including candy, bubble gum and fruit flavors. The agency extended that reach to other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in August 2016 and allowed those products that were already on the market to continue sales while preparing an application for FDA clearance. 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.

"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. Former smokers who vape may return to traditional cigarettes if flavored e-cigarettes are no longer available.

What's more, e-cigarette liquids like Juul pods contain high concentrations of nicotine.

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.

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If the plans fall short, the FDA could block sales of the products by enforcing a requirement that companies provide detailed design and health data about their products before marketing them. Since previous year, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb and other federal officials have discussed e-cigarettes as a potential tool to ween adult smokers off cigarettes, although that benefit hasn't been proven.

Following the news, shares of Altria, which owns the MarkTen brand, surged more than 7%, and British American Tobacco, which owns Vuse and Logic brands, jumped more than 6%.

Juul Labs said it would work with the FDA on its request and is committed to preventing underage use of its product. "In the coming weeks, we'll take additional action under our Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to immediately address the youth access to, and the appeal of, these products". It was "the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the FDA's history", according to the agency. The "epidemic" perceived by the FDA is mainly an epidemic of e-cigarette experimentation, and even that trend seems to have reversed, judging from the latest NYTS results. Those products could include e-cigarettes, though the FDA has not given any company permission to advertise its device as a quit-smoking aid.

"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".

"I'm here to tell them today that this prior approach is over", he said. "They must demonstrate that they're truly committed to keeping these new products out of the hands of kids, and they must find a way to reverse this trend", Gottlieb said.

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