U.S. regulators said Wednesday they are considering an immediate ban on flavored e-cigarettes, as the Food and Drug Administration chief warned of an "epidemic" of vaping among youths.
Manufacturers offer and market e-cigarette flavors that appeal to minors, including candy, bubble gum, and fruit flavors.
In April, the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education sent a joint letter and toolkit to school districts across the state, warning them of the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping products and providing them with resources for addressing the issue in schools.
"The legal standard for FDA premarket review of a new tobacco product includes consideration of whether the product would be appropriate for the protection of the public health".
"The agency is asking each company to submit to FDA within 60 days plans describing how they will address the widespread youth access and use of their products", the FDA said in a release. The FDA may also limit the sale of certain flavored products, Gottlieb said. And it highlighted e-cigarettes' role as a way for adult smokers to transition off cigarettes. The upshot could be less switching and therefore more smoking-related deaths. In a statement, they called for support for their bipartisan legislation, introduced in July, which would ban flavored cigars and place stringent controls on e-juice flavorings. They're generally considered a less unsafe alternative to regular cigarettes.
Other studies have indicated that while e-cigarettes may have milder effects on the lungs, they are just as bad - if not worse - for the cardiovascular system, raising risks of heart disease and high blood pressure.
To the extent that teenagers who otherwise would be smoking are vaping instead, that is an unambiguous gain in public health terms, since the latter habit is much less risky.
But the FDA said it is also investigating whether e-cigarette manufacturers have introduced new products after August 8, 2016, without premarket authorization.
The agency plans to issue data showing "substantial increase" in youth using e-cigarettes - otherwise known as vaping - this year compared with 2017.
The ability of manufacturers to prevent underage consumption is, in any case, pretty limited.
"The FDA should immediately move to regulate flavored e-cigarettes, instead of waiting until 2022, as it is now planning to do", Bloomberg said in a statement. A government-commissioned report in January found "substantial evidence" that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try cigarettes. If underage consumption does not justify a ban on tobacco cigarettes (and I don't think it does), it can not possibly justify a ban on competing products that are much safer.
Dr Gottlieb acknowledged that the toughened approach would force "hard trade-offs" when it comes to promoting e-cigarettes to adults.
The FDA said it remains committed to exploring e-cigarettes as a less-harmful alternative for adult smokers, but Gottlieb added "that work can't come at the expense of kids". Gottlieb would be on much firmer ethical ground if he took the opposite position: In trying to stop teenagers from vaping, we won't deny adult smokers access to products that could save their lives.