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FDA calls teen vaping ‘epidemic,’ weighs ban on flavored products

FDA takes ‘historic action’ on youth e-cigarette ‘epidemic FDA takes ‘historic action’ on youth e-cigarette ‘epidemic
Gustavo Carr | 13 September, 2018, 04:11

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. He says the problem had reached "epidemic proportion".

"We welcome FDA's action today and look forward to sharing our thoughts about how to prevent and reduce youth use, an issue we have focused on for decades", Altria spokesman George Parman said in a statement.

As of 2017, more than two million high school-age Americans used e-cigarettes, a trend that represents a historic uptake of nicotine products, the FDA said. The companies sell Vuse, Blu, Juul, MarkTen XL, and Logic e-cigarette brands, which account for 97 percent of USA e-cigarette sales, according to FDA. Shares of cigarette and e-cigarette maker Altria Group also rose more than 6 percent, while Philip Morris International shares were up 4 percent.

Juul Labs owns about 72 per cent of the USA market for e-cigarette sales, according to Wells Fargo.

"This could result in a bullet through the head of Juul, the driver of youth initiation", says Nico von Stackelberg, an analyst with Liberum in London. A government-commissioned report in January found "substantial evidence" that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try cigarettes.

"Let me be clear: Everything is on the table", said Gottlieb.

"There is no question that a lot of the youth use is being driven by Juul", Gottlieb says.

The FDA is in the process of rolling out a sweeping anti-smoking initiative created to make it easier for smokers to quit by cutting the nicotine levels in regular cigarettes.

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However, Gottlieb claims e-cigarette brands haven't done enough to stop kids from using the products.

"If young adults go online and buy 100 units of a product to sell to teens, that activity ought to be easy for a product manufacturer to identify", said Gottlieb.

The agency said it allowed the extra time to strike an appropriate balance between regulation and encouraging the development of innovative tobacco products that may help older smokers quit. "By working together, we believe we can help adult smokers while preventing access to minors, and we will continue to engage with the FDA to fulfill our mission".

In addition, the FDA on Wednesday issued 12 warning letters to online retailers for selling misleadingly labeled and/or advertised e-liquids resembling kid-friendly food products such as candy and cookies.

To that end, the FDA on Wednesday said it has asked Vuse, Blu, JUUL, MarkTen XL and Logic to submit plans within 60 days to describe how they will address widespread youth access and use of their products. He said in June tobacco companies "better step up and step up soon" but he didn't divulge what consequences the industry could face-until now. "And they [teens] have adopted it", Gould said. 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. Gottlieb said at the time he was trying to ease the regulatory pathway for products that are potentially less harmful sources of nicotine than smoking.

He said the vaping industry had not taken prior warnings seriously. 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.

Fontem Ventures, owner of blu, also told Business Insider that it will fully "advocate for both legislation prohibiting sales of vaping products to minors and the ongoing FDA enforcement action against retailers selling e-vapor and other tobacco products to minors".