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USA government considers ban on flavored e-cigarettes over youth 'epidemic'
13 September 2018, 08:01 | Melissa Porter
US health officials say teenage use of e-cigarette has reached "epidemic" levels and are calling on the industry to address the problem or risk having their flavored products pulled off the market. The FDA says more than two million middle and high schoolers regularly used the devices, and it wants both the makers and sellers to help curb this trend.
In a statement, Juul Labs said "appropriate flavors" play a role in adults changing their smoking habits, but said it would work with the FDA: "We are committed to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people".
"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.
Five of the biggest e-cigarette manufacturers - JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen, blu e-cigs, and Logic - must also report to the agency within 60 days with plans to address the concerns, or face penalties, it said.
"What we have learned from our experience with cigarettes and other products, is it is important to restrict sales to kids, but if you make products appealing to kids, market them in ways to attract kids, you can be certain kids will get them", Myers told AFP. The company has more than two-thirds of the USA e-cigarette market, according to Nielsen data.
"The FDA should immediately move to regulate flavored e-cigarettes, instead of waiting until 2022, as it is now planning to do", Bloomberg said in a statement. But when it comes to minors, he said, even e-cigarettes should be off limits. The agency will then determine whether the plans go far enough.
Matt Hutsell, local co-owner of WC Vapor in Salem, says his shop's goal is to provide a less harmful alternative to cigarettes and he will continue to comply with all FDA regulations.
Gottlieb said the FDA recognized the impact this might have on adults trying to stop smoking, but said that emerging research on how flavored products encourage excessive use by young people shows action must be taken.
The FDA found top-selling brands were popular among minors. The FDA's delay on that requirement has allowed the industry to flourish with little oversight. Despite the constant warnings that increased experimentation with e-cigarettes would lead to more smoking, consumption of conventional cigarettes by teenagers stubbornly continues to decline, reaching a record low past year in the Monitoring the Future Study, which began in 1975. "Hindsight, and the data that's now available to us, fully reveal these trends".
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.
On Wednesday, Gottlieb criticized e-cigarette companies' handling of the underage use problem, saying they approached it as "a public relations challenge rather than seriously considering their legal obligations".
The action is part of the FDA's Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan announced in April.
It marks a shift in the agency's tone on e-cigarettes.