NATIONAL: FDA proposals target electronic, traditional cigarettes

By Gloria Gonzalez

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed new steps to limit access to flavored e-cigarettes by those under the age of 18 and ban menthol in cigarettes and cigars.

Technologies such as electronic nicotine delivery systems were developed as an alternative to cigarettes for adults, but new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that e-cigarette use among youngsters is significantly increasing, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement on Thursday. From 2017 to 2018, there was a 78% increase in current e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48% increase among middle school students, with the total number of middle and high school students currently using e-cigarettes rising to 3.6 million, meaning 1.5 million more students are using these products than in the previous year, according to the new CDC research.

In response, the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products will revisit its compliance policy as it applies to electronic nicotine delivery systems, including all flavors other than tobacco, mint and menthol, with a proposal to have these products sold in age-restricted, in-person locations and, if sold online, under heightened practices for age verification, according to the FDA’s statement.

“FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb got it right when he called e-cigarette use among youth an ‘epidemic’,” Chrissie Juliano, director of the Big Cities Health Coalition in Washington, D.C., said in a statement on Thursday. “And their action today is a step in the right direction. Most drug stores and gas station retailers will no longer be allowed to sell flavored e-cigarettes and additional restrictions regarding online sales should also help to stem the tide. This is a good start, but opportunities remain. These flavors are still available for sale on the internet to those over the age of 18, and brick-and-mortar specialty retailers will continue to sell highly addictive, traditionally flavored e-cigarettes to those ‘of age.’ Further, menthol and mint vaping products will also still be available.”

The agency will also put forth a notice of proposed rule making that would seek to ban menthol in combustible tobacco products, including cigarettes and cigars, according to the FDA’s statement.

“This closes a major regulatory loophole in the Tobacco Control Act and is long overdue,” Ms. Juliano said in the statement.

However, Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association in Washington, said in a statement on Thursday: “No youth should vape and there is room for more rigorous enforcement to ensure youth are not accessing these products. However, this move by Commissioner Gottlieb will only serve to make it harder for adult smokers to switch to a far less harmful alternative.”