U.S. orders restriction on e-cigarette sales; youth use surges

Roman Schwartz
November 16, 2018

In a statement on Thursday morning, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he is directing the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) to revisit this compliance policy as it applies to deemed electronic nicotine devices (ENDs) that are flavored, including all flavors other than tobacco, mint and menthol. To date, 3.6 million students are now vaping.

"Commissioner Gottlieb clearly understands the important role e-cigarettes, specifically flavored products, play in transitioning adult smokers off of deadly, risky combustible cigarettes", Abboud said in a statement.

Still, most scientists say e-cigarettes are far safer than traditional cigarettes, says David Abrams, a behavioral and population health researcher who studies tobacco control at New York University.

The plan to sequester the sale of flavored e-cigarettes rather than banning them comes as a surprise for many as a study released Thursday suggests that the number of high school students who use e-cigarettes has risen 77 percent since past year.

Koval said the number of high school students using e-cigarettes almost doubled in just one year.

What we said all along is that we felt that the e-cigarettes offer an opportunity for adults, but we need to take measures to try to restrict access to the kids.

The battery-powered devices heat a nicotine liquid that users inhale, and are gaining popularity in the United States and overseas, particularly among young people, which Gottlieb has previously described as an "epidemic".

E-cigarettes have been a divisive topic in the public health community.

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".

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"More than half (54 percent) of youth smokers ages 12-17 use menthol cigarettes, compared to less than one-third of smokers ages 35 and older", said Gottlieb.

The reason mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes are not included is they are more popular with adults who may be using them to decrease or stop their use of traditional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are often promoted as a means to stop smoking.

"We won't let this pool of kids, a pool of future potential smokers, of future disease and death, to continue to build", he added.

Health experts applauded the FDA move. But some say adult smokers switching to e-cigarettes have also helped drive down the rate in recent years.

At the same time, the FDA announced a proposal to ban menthol in combustible cigarettes and cigars.

"We're really pleased that the FDA is taking action on menthol and on flavors in little cigars", Koval said.

"I don't want to create a situation where the combustible products have features that make them more attractive than the non-combustible products".

On Wall Street, tobacco stocks slid on the news, continuing a decline that began last week as media reports warned of the impending regulations.

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