Federal regulators gave e-cigarette manufacturers 60 days to prove they can keep their vaping devices out of the hands of children and teens. If they fail, flavored nicotine e-liquids may soon be a thing of the past
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Sept. 12 announcement has put the giant vaping industry on edge, and rightfully so. Research shows that children and teens make up a significant and continually growing share of the vaping market. Kids who otherwise never would have started smoking are now hooked on e-cigarettes, thanks to the accessibility of the devices and the alluring flavors that nicotine-fueled e-liquids come in.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that e-cigarette usage among U.S. teens is now an epidemic and the threat grows larger every day.
“We must do more to stem what I see as an epidemic of use of e-cigs among teens, and deeply disturbing trends that show no sign of abating,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “The FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine.”
The need to staunch vaping among youth is especially urgent because nicotine is known to have adverse effects on the developing brains of children and teens. E-cigarettes also contain and release other chemicals “at higher levels than conventional cigarettes, and these potential risks require closer scrutiny,” Mr. Gottlieb said, indicating little is known about the other adverse effects e-cigarettes may have on users.
According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), released by the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among youth since 2014.
In 2017, 11.7 percent of high schoolers and 3.3 percent of middle schoolers reported that they are actively vaping. Among high school students, e-cigarette use increased from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 11.7 percent in 2017.
According to the latest NYTS report, more than 1.7 million high school students and 390,000 middle school students currently use e-cigarettes.
The FDA called its new efforts to curb vaping among youth a major escalation in its enforcement actions. Over the summer, the agency issued more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to convenience stores, gas stations, online vendors, and others for selling e-cigarettes to minors – the agency’s largest such action in history, according to Mr. Gottlieb.
In its announcement, the FDA said that the U.S. has made tremendous strides in lowering the rate of tobacco use in adults, which if kept on target, could save more lives annually than “any new medical technology.” Yet this positive trend is being derailed by the vaping industry. Instead of helping adults quit conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are more significantly turning millions of children and teens into nicotine addicts.