USA threatens ban to fight teenage vaping epidemic

FDADeclaring that "youth use of e-cigarettes is reaching epidemic proportions", the Food and Drug Administration today threatened to remove vaping products from the market unless their manufacturers come up with satisfactory plans to prevent underage consumption.

E-cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product by kids, with more than 2 million middle and high school kids using the product in 2017, the federal government says. Since previous year, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb and other federal officials have discussed e-cigarettes as a potential tool to ween adult smokers off cigarettes, although that benefit hasn't been proven.

But FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the agency did not predict an "epidemic of addiction" among youth, mainly driven by flavored products.

In an effort to reverse that trend, the FDA on Wednesday sent letters to manufacturers of five e-cigarette brands often used by kids - Juul, Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu and Logic - requesting that they draw up plans for limiting youth access to their products within 60 days. "And we're seriously considering a policy change that would lead to the immediate removal of these flavored products from the market".

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

FDA had taken a slow approach to allow manufacturers to figure out how to submit products for consideration. "It's that simple", Gottlieb said in a statement. That initiative emerged from the agency's broader plan to regulate nicotine and tobacco, unveiled in July 2017, under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog said Juul is the brand "most at risk" from an FDA crackdown and that a potential ban on the company's products would boost Altria and other cigarette makers that also sell e-cigarettes. Lisa Murkowski also asked the FDA to end delays.

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The health department said 19 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes.

San Francisco-based Juul, which commands over 60 percent of the e-cigarette market, said it is working to prevent underage use of its products but added that flavors can help adult smokers quit cigarettes. "Hindsight, and the data that's now available to us, fully reveal these trends".

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.

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. We think right now we can step into this market with a combination of enforcement actions against the places that we know kids are getting access to these products, which includes retail establishments that are selling them without putting proper restrictions in place or without carding minors, as well as the online sites, where we think that there are a straw purchases being made, where - where someone's going online, buying a lot of these products, and then reselling them to kids.

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

It marks a shift in the agency's tone on e-cigarettes.

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