Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Markets | By Terence Owen

Big Tobacco to Benefit from FDA Crackdown on E-Cigarettes

Big Tobacco to Benefit from FDA Crackdown on E-Cigarettes

"In the coming weeks, we'll take additional action under our Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to immediately address the youth access to, and the appeal of, these products", said FDA Commissioner Gottlieb.

The FDA is calling the use of e-cigarettes by young people an epidemic.

"E-cigs have become an nearly ubiquitous - and unsafe - trend among teens", the commissioner said in a statement.

Such a step would be a major blow to the e-cigarette companies - Juul, Vuse, Blu, Logic and MarkTen - which often feature cream and fruit flavorings in their products.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Wednesday said there are "clear signs" that the use of electronic cigarettes by young people has reached "epidemic proportions" and that the agency's strategy for dealing with the issue must be adjusted in response.

But Gottlieb said in an address at FDA headquarters that he failed to predict the current "epidemic of addiction" among youth, mainly driven by flavored products.

More than 2 million middle-school and high-school students used e-cigarettes in 2017.

Gottlieb noted that the FDA continues to support the availability of products to help adult smokers quit, but 'that work can't come at the expense of kids, ' he said. "Clearly the FDA knows who the industry culprits are in this epidemic and as such should exercise its full regulatory authority over these products rather than allow the industry to voluntarily self-correct".

"Let me be clear: Everything is on the table, including all our civil and criminal enforcement tools", Gottlieb said in a speech at FDA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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The FDA extended an Obama era deadline that would have required e-cigarettes on the market by 2016 to be reviewed starting this year. If the manufacturers fail to submit plans that could halt the trend of e-cigarette use among kids, their flavored products could be pulled from store shelves. "Appropriate flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch", Burns said.

The steps announced Wednesday are just the initial elements of these new efforts, Gottlieb said.

While e-cigarettes were first marketed to help adults quit smoking combustible cigarettes, they have now become a gateway to nicotine for teenagers.

"We didn't foresee the extent of what's now become one of our biggest challenges", he said, in prepared remarks.

The agency sent letters to Juul, along with other popular e-cigarette brands-as well as to over 1,100 retailers-demanding that they prove that e-cigaretts will stop being sold to the young folks.

"If they stop them from selling it, it's gonna be a really good thing", said Griselda Navarro, as she picked up her daughter at Burnett Middle School in San Jose.

"Thousands of small-business vape shops across America do not engage in irresponsible marketing practices and don't even sell the products being targeted by the FDA with threatening letters", said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Assn., a nonprofit organization that advocates for what it calls sensible regulation. But on the other hand, we don't want adults to be smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Ultimately, such a move could push Big Tobacco back into the lead in the e-cig market, analysts said Wednesday. The research, a collaboration between scientists at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and pediatricians from Stony Brook Children's Hospital, also reveals that Juul and similar products contain high concentrations of a modified, salt form of nicotine, which is more readily absorbed upon inhalation.

Gottlieb echoed those concerns, saying he's anxious about the effects of nicotine in e-cigarettes on the developing brain, and that a proportion of teenagers who use the devices will end up on regular cigarettes.

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