The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the first warning letters last week to 55 tobacco retailers for selling e-cigarettes, e-liquids and cigars, which are newly regulated, to minors.
The new regulations enforced last month make it illegal to sell e-cigarettes, cigars, and hookah tobacco to anyone younger than 18, either in person or online. The restrictions also include the requirement to check the photo ID of anyone younger than 27.
When the FDA moved forward with compliance checks, targeting major national retail chains, they found that even after the new regulations were enacted, minors were still able to purchase the tobacco products, particularly in flavors that appeal to youth, such as bubble gum, cotton candy, and gummy bear.
Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, stands firm about the need to keep tobacco products from being accessible to minors.
“We’re helping protect the health of America’s youth by enforcing restrictions that make it illegal to sell tobacco products to minors,” Zeller said. “Retailers play a vital role in keeping harmful and addictive tobacco products out of the hands of children, and we urge them to take that responsibility seriously. It’s clear from these initial compliance checks that there’s a need for strong federal enforcement of these important youth access restrictions.”
E-cigarettes have been found to contain diacetyl, a chemical that is added to flavorings to mimic the creamy taste of butter. Diacetyl, along with acetoin and 2,3 pentanedione, chemicals that are used for the same reason, have been found in 92 percent of e-cigarettes tested in a recent study. Diacetyl has been heavily linked to serious lung diseases such as bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung.”
According to the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarette usage has increased by more than 900 percent among high school students from 2011-2015.
The FDA has made available an online form that allows consumers to easily report tobacco-related violations of the law.