Last week, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced his agency is considering banning all flavored e-cigarette products (vaping) from the market, due to what he calls “epidemic of addiction” among American teens. This announcement followed several other firm actions taken by the agency against vaping companies in the past few months.
“The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end,” he wrote in his letter.
Electronic vaping devices have been popular for several years with little to no regulations. Young people have viewed these smoking devices as a safe way to get their nicotine, while some adult smokers say the tools have helped them quit cigarettes for good. However, many people both vape and smoke and studies have shown that in many ways, e-cigarettes are an addictive device. In some cases, young people have even begun to smoke as they vape. Some vaping materials don’t contain nicotine but instead offer various flavors such as vanilla, berries, and other sweet tases. Many formulas contain nicotine and candy flavors at the same time. It is unknown if certain manufacturers have added any other chemicals to their mixes since the liquids are wholly uninspected and unregulated by the government.
Gottlieb is responding to what he views as an emergency after a U.S. Surgeon General report showed that use of nicotine vaping among high school students had increased 900 percent between 2011 and 2015.
In response to this epidemic, the FDA also sent warning letters Wednesday to 12 national companies that advertise e-liquids. The manufacturers appear to target minors through packaging that seems specifically for children. Some of the packagings resemble juice boxes and candies, a marketing method the agency has banned because they said it targets children. In the 1990’s, tobacco marketing to children was outlawed entirely in the wake of the tobacco lawsuits filed by the Clinton Administration that changed the way that tobacco companies sell and market their products.
Several of the companies that are allegedly marketing e-cigarette products to minors were also cited for selling them products as well. Many vape product vendors sell their products on the internet to any consumer who will buy from them. Over 1,300 warning letters went out to stores for the illegal sale of e-cigarette products to minors this summer. This is the largest single enforcement action in the FDA’s history.
“The FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products,” Gottlieb said.