FDA seeking to restrict access to flavored e-cigarettes, ban menthol

Ivan Schwartz
November 16, 2018

One of the most popular devices, made by San Francisco-based Juul Labs Inc, has become a phenomenon at USA high schools, where "Juuling" has become synonymous with vaping.

"These data shock my conscience", said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, referring to the latest data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The proposed sales restrictions on e-cigarettes "are a step forward, but by themselves are not enough to stem the youth e-cigarette epidemic", said Robin Koval, chief executive of the Truth Initiative, an advocacy group that runs anti-tobacco ads.

From 2017 to 2018, there was a 78 per cent increase in current e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students.

Over time, it can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, and young people who use e-cigarettes are significantly more likely to try cigarettes or to become smokers.

The agency has faced mounting pressure to act on e-cigarettes amid their surging popularity among US teenagers in recent years.

That action, according to the statement, starts with severely limiting the sale of e-cigarettes in all flavors except mint, menthol and tobacco; unflavored e-cigarettes are also unaffected by the policy.

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The new rules require fruit flavored-cartridges like those sold by Juul to be sold in "age-restricted, in-person locations and, if sold online, under heightened practices for age verification".

The primary concern most experts have about youth e-cigarette use is that most of these products contain nicotine, which is addictive, says Jonathan Klein, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of pediatrics at the University of IL at Chicago.

The proposed ban, which would also include flavored cigars, is aimed at "addressing the disturbing trend of youth nicotine use and continuing to advance the historic declines we've achieved in recent years in the rates of combustible cigarette use among kids", he added. "I don't want to create a situation where the combustible products have features that make them more attractive than the non-combustible products or a situation where those who now use menthol-flavored cigarettes might find it less attractive to switch completely to an e-cigarette", he note.

E-cigarettes were created to give adult smokers a healthier alternative to cigarettes, but the products have become popular among kids and teenagers.

Some called for a complete ban of flavorings, for example, and a more aggressive regulation of e-cigarettes that have come on the market in the last two years. But some say adult smokers switching to e-cigarettes have also helped drive down the rate in recent years. Vaping products, including e-liquids, may now be sold only in stores that can verify the age of customers. They could still be sold in vape shops or other businesses that do not admit minors.

Imperial, BAT and Altria said the ban on menthols or flavored cigars was not supported by science and evidence.

Other reports by GizPress

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