Policy

FDA Plans Crackdown on Flavored E-Cigarettes

Move aimed at preventing nicotine addiction in young people

The FDA wants e-cigarette manufacturers to take steps to curb youth use or “face regulatory consequences.” (Matt Cardy/Getty Images file photo)

The Food and Drug Administration, seeking to prevent nicotine addiction in young people, plans to ban flavored e-cigarette sales in gas stations and convenience stores and will propose banning menthol flavoring in traditional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes and their liquid nicotine flavors would continue to be sold in dedicated vape stores, where the FDA believes age verification procedures are more reliable. Gas stations and convenience stores will be able to keep selling e-cigarettes and liquid nicotines flavored like tobacco and menthol.

An FDA spokesperson confirmed the upcoming announcement, which could come as early as this week and was first reported by The Washington Post.

The curbs on the nascent e-cigarette industry comes as federal officials have become increasingly alarmed about growing use among young people.

A study published last week in the academic journal Tobacco Control found that 6 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds used the popular e-cigarette brand JUUL within the last 30 days, and 11 percent had used an e-cigarette in general.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb hinted at a tougher approach in a recent statement.

“We are committed to taking the necessary steps to fully confront the epidemic of e-cigarette use that has gripped the nation’s youth and set in motion an accelerating epidemic,” he said.

In September, the FDA told JUUL and other e-cigarette makers to take action to curb youth use, or the agency would consider banning flavors more broadly until companies go through an FDA application process, which would take years. The rapidly growing industry has been largely unregulated.

In limiting the sales of flavors to vape shops that sell products more popular among adults, the FDA is acknowledging the role the devices might play in helping older smokers switch to a potentially less harmful product. Industry officials and their congressional allies argue that e-cigarettes pose fewer health risks than traditional cigarettes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday reported that the adult smoking rate was 14 percent in 2017, the lowest number recorded since the CDC started asking the question in 1965. Just 2.8 percent of adults were e-cigarette users. But among adults who reported using two products most days — about 3.7 percent of the total population — around 30 percent used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

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