The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is pushing back against the unchecked growth of the e-cigarette industry.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb is expected this week to announce bans on most flavored e-cigarettes in an attempt to curb “epidemic” levels of teen e-cigarette use, senior FDA officials told CNBC and the Washington Post.
Preliminary government data showed e-cigarette use rose 77% among high schoolers and nearly 50% among middle schoolers in 2018, meaning that 3.5 million minors were vaping in early 2018.
While vaping itself is less harmful than tobacco smoking, research shows many e-cigarette users are likely to develop nicotine addictions and some will probably end up on regular cigarettes, a product that kills half of its long-term users. Plus, the long-term health effects of vaping are unknown.
The agency plans to prohibit sales of flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations. Instead, they will only be sold in vape and tobacco shops, which enforce age restrictions better.
The FDA also plans to restrict online sales until manufacturers follow FDA-mandated guidelines for age verification. Gottlieb is also expected to propose banning menthol in regular cigarettes, which is sure to get pushback from the tobacco industry. The bans would likely take weeks, if not months, to implement.
In September, Gottlieb gave five e-cigarette manufacturers — Juul, British American Tobacco’s Vuse, Altria’s MarkTen, Imperial Brands’ Blu E-cigs and Japan Tobacco’s Logic — until this Sunday to submit proposals on how to combat youth e-cigarette use. He has said the FDA will share its own plan in mid-November.
Altria (MO) has already said it will remove its MarkTen pod-based products and will stop selling all flavors except for menthol or tobacco in its products until the FDA reviews and approves them.
The FDA’s flavor restrictions would exclude menthol, meaning menthol and mint vape products would still be allowed to be sold in convenience stores and gas stations — until the FDA removes menthol cigarettes from the market. Officials worry that removing menthol e-cigarettes would drive consumers to traditional menthol cigarettes.