US officials call teen vaping an ‘epidemic,’ weigh flavor ban

The Food and Drug Administration is threatening to pull flavored electronic cigarettes off the market if the tobacco industry doesn’t do more to combat growing use of the products by children and teens

US plans crackdown on e-cigarette firms citing 'epidemic' teen use

Since past year, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb and other federal officials have discussed e-cigarettes as a potential tool to ween adult smokers off cigarettes, although that benefit hasn't been proven.

To gain clearance to return to the market, the companies would have to prove that the benefits to adults who use e-cigarettes in order to stop smoking traditional cigarettes outweigh the risks associated with youth vaping. "It's that simple", Gottlieb said in a statement. "We can not allow a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine".

Gottlieb announced the agency sent 1,100 warning letters to stores for the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18, and issued 131 fines to stores that continued to violate the restrictions on sales to minors.

"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 at a press briefing.

The owners of Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu and Logic did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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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.

In a June interview with CBS News, Juul's chief administrative officer Ashley Gould insisted that the company never intentionally marketed to teens. "And they [teens] have adopted it", Gould said.

The FDA said it would consider requiring brands to remove flavored products, which could be contributing to the rise in youth e-cigarette use.

"This could result in a bullet through the head of Juul, the driver of youth initiation", said Nico von Stackelberg, an analyst with Liberum in London, told the news agency. "As health professionals, we strongly believe that access to nicotine products, and that advertising of nicotine products that appeals to teens, should be restricted to minimize youth exposure". Nearly 12% of high school students and 3% of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes in the prior 30 days.

"While vaping devices have the potential to be disruptive to the combustible tobacco market, this can not be at the expense of increasing rates of nicotine addiction in young people", Ylioja said.

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