The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on e-cigarette companies in order to stop e-cig sales and use among teens, according to a lengthy press announcement today from FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, MD. "The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end," Dr. Gottlieb said. "It's simply not tolerable. 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."
In order to stop this, the FDA is zeroing in on five specific e-cigarette manufacturers that make up 97% of the current market and specifically target teens: JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen, blu e-cigs, and Logic. The companies have 60 days to show the FDA how they're planning to "convincingly address the widespread use of their products by minors." That could include changing their marketing, pulling products from retailers that sell to minors, or temporarily removing flavored e-cig products (which the FDA says specifically appeal to younger users) until they receive proper authorization from the FDA. In the meantime, the FDA will also be investigating advertising and sales practices. "The FDA is going to continue to work to find out why so many kids are using and abusing these products," Gottlieb said.
While the five companies above are the focus of this new initiative, the FDA also sent 1,100 warning letters and issued 131 fines to stores that illegally sell tobacco to minors. Additionally, the FDA's extensive efforts will cover all e-cigarette products, but they're aimed at products that they know teens typically use, like "cartridge-based e-cigs." JUUL, one of the companies targeted, is a mega-popular cartridge-based vaping device that attracts tons of teens. In a statement on JUUL's website, they said they, "will work proactively with FDA in response to its request. We are committed to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people."
In addition to all of this investigating and enforcing, the FDA is also launching a national campaign to educate teenagers about the dangers of nicotine and e-cigs. "This public campaign will bring these public health messages to online sites that we know teenagers access, and even to high school bathrooms," Gottlieb said. So, when a teen sneaks off to the bathroom to JUUL at school, they'll be face-to-face with a PSA explaining why it's so dangerous. And despite how ubiquitous these products are, there is a real need for education: According to a survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 66% of teens said their e-cigs contained "just flavoring."
This is a pretty intense plan, and the FDA called it "the largest coordinated tobacco compliance effort in FDA’s history." Time will tell how effective this initiative will be, but what's clear is that they're taking e-cigs — and all of the short and long term health risks associated with using them — seriously.