The "epidemic" perceived by the FDA is mainly an epidemic of e-cigarette experimentation, and even that trend seems to have reversed, judging from the latest NYTS results.
"In addition, today the FDA also issued 12 warning letters to other online retailers that are selling misleadingly labeled and/or advertised e-liquids resembling kid-friendly food products such as candy and cookies".
"We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion", Gottlieb said. As long as some retailers are careless, some adults are willing to buy e-cigarettes on behalf of minors, and some teenagers manage to swipe them from parents or older siblings, there will be leakage from the adult market.
The warning from the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday cited recent data pointing to a sharp rise in underage use of the devices, including Juul, Vuse and others. "These five brands now comprise over 97 percent of the US market for e-cigarettes", the FDA said. "Juuling", along with "vaping", has become a common term for e-cigarette use by teenagers on social media and at USA high schools.
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The Vapor Technology Association, which says it represents over 600 vaping manufacturers and distributors, also supports limiting teen access, but added that the new actions by the FDA ventured "into risky territory" by not being in the best interest of public health. Otherwise, the FDA could require the tobacco makers to stop selling the flavored products that appealed to children.
MarkTen's flavors, for example, include "menthol", "classic", and "summer blend", while Juul's flavors have included "fruit medley" and "creme brulee", recently shortened to "fruit" and "creme".
"Today, we asked five e-cigarette manufacturers to put forward plans to immediately and substantially reverse these trends or face a potential decision by the FDA to reconsider extending the compliance dates for submission of premarket applications", Gottlieb announced.
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"I certainly am in possession of evidence that warrants that", Gottlieb said.
"We can not allow a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine", he said.
"JUUL Labs will work proactively with FDA in response to its request", said Kevin Burns, JUUL's CEO. "Juul is a product for adult smokers".
The FDA moves come as it seeks to balance its approach on e-cigarettes, which can be used to wean lifelong smokers onto less harmful nicotine products, but also risk drawing a new generation to nicotine addiction.
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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said that e-cigarettes, while still harmful, may be effective for adults who want to give up cigarette smoking, which kills nearly half a million Americans each year. "It's now clear to me, that in closing the on-ramp to kids, we're going to have to narrow the off-ramp for adults who want to migrate off combustible tobacco and onto e-cigs". "By working together, we believe we can help adult smokers while preventing access to minors, and we will continue to engage with the FDA to fulfill our mission".