E-cigarette use is an 'epidemic', FDA chief says

US government considers ban on flavored e-cigarettes over youth 'epidemic'

The government is now threatening to pull electronic cigarettes, such as Juul, a sleek little device that looks like a thumb drive and is popular with teens, off the market if the tobacco industry doesn't do more to combat growing use of such products among youth.

Despite the fact that they can not legally be sold to anyone under 18, e-cigarettes - hand-held vaporizers that create aerosols from liquids typically packed with nicotine and other chemicals, often including flavorings - are now the most popular tobacco product among high school students, recent federal data shows.

"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", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a press release. "And we're seriously considering a policy change that would lead to the immediate removal of these flavored products from the market".

In a statement, VTA Executive Director Tony Abboud asked: "Does FDA really want millions of Americans to return to smoking cigarettes?"

"We're especially focused on the flavored e-cigarettes".

"I certainly am in possession of evidence that warrants that", Gottlieb said.

He said the FDA move could "represent a fundamental turning point" if the agency requires "all of these products undergo premarket review now, not four years from now".

"I'll be clear. 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. "In the coming weeks, we'll take additional action under our Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to immediately address the youth access to, and the appeal of, these products".

Most of the violations found in the undercover blitz, conducted from June through August, were for the illicit sale of Vuse, Blu, JUUL, MarkTen XL and Logic e-cigarette products, according to the FDA. "Our mission is to improve the lives of adult smokers by providing them with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes".

San Francisco-based Juul said it is working to prevent underage use of its products but added that flavors can help adult smokers quit.

At that time, Gottlieb said, the agency didn't foresee the "epidemic'"of adolescent use that has become one of the plan's biggest challenges". "Juuling", along with "vaping", has become a common term for e-cigarette use by teenagers on social media and at USA high schools. "Hindsight, and the data that's now available to us, fully reveal these trends".

In April the agency launched a Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, created to address some of the known public health risks, such as flavors, that contribute to adolescent use of e-cigarettes.

The FDA also targeted Juul retailers this spring, issuing 56 warning letters and six civil monetary penalties.

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.

Gottlieb announced a number of steps the agency plans to take as part of a broader crackdown on the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to minors.

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