The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering a ban on flavored e-cigarettes from Juul Labs and other companies as it grapples with an "epidemic" of youth e-cigarette use that threatens to create a new generation of nicotine addicts, the agency's head said on Wednesday.
As of 2017, more than two million high school-age Americans used e-cigarettes, a trend that represents a historic uptake of nicotine products, the FDA said.
"While we remain committed to advancing policies that promote the potential of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes, that work can't come at the expense of kids", Gottlieb said. The agency may also ban sales of some flavored e-cigarette products, which Gottlieb says are particularly appealing to underage users, and consider shortening a grace period that now gives e-cigarette companies until 2022 to apply for FDA approval.
The FDA set a 60-day deadline for five major tobacco manufacturers to provide a plan for mitigating youth sales, or the agency will pull them out of the market.
"What we have learned from our experience with cigarettes and other products, is it is important to restrict sales to kids, but if you make products appealing to kids, market them in ways to attract kids, you can be certain kids will get them", Myers told AFP.
The FDA is trying to set up a framework for regulating e-cigarettes. "It's aimed at retail and online sales of e-cigarettes to minors".
It reserved its strongest action for the manufacturers themselves.
Gottlieb cited preliminary data that has not yet been published, but which he said shows "youth use of e-cigs is rising very sharply".
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"I have grown increasingly concerned around what we see as rising youth use in these products, and I'm disappointed in the actions the companies have taken to try to address this", Gottlieb said in an interview. "We're going to have to take action".
And vaping products, including Juul and other brands, use fruity and candy-like flavors to attract users. Lisa Murkowski also asked the FDA to end delays.
The FDA also sent more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers found to be selling vapes to minors during an "undercover nationwide blitz" this summer.
The agency said it allowed the extra time to strike an appropriate balance between regulation and encouraging the development of innovative tobacco products that may help older smokers quit.
"I use the word epidemic with great care".
According to the Washington Post, the preliminary data is from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, and it shows a 75 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students in 2018 compared to 2017.
To report a retailer selling tobacco products to underage customers, submit an online form on the FDA's website.
"In my view, they treated these issues like a public relations challenge rather than seriously considering their legal obligations, the public health mandate and the existential threat to these products, and as they did, these risks have mounted", Gottlieb said.
It marks a shift in the agency's tone on e-cigarettes.