FDA to crack down on flavored e-cigs, combustible menthol products

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FDA to crack down on flavored e-cigs, combustible menthol products

By David Salazar - 11/15/2018
Citing a rise in youth e-cigarette use in its 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the Food and Drug Administration has unveiled efforts to curb the increase. With the report noting that more than 3.6 million middle and high schoolers used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days — up roughly 1.5 million students from last year — FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Thursday outlined efforts to curb youth e-cig use, with a particular focus on flavored products.

The survey found that the past year has seen a 78% increase in reported e-cigarette use among high schoolers and a 48% increase among middle schoolers, and that of those who use e-cigarettes, 67.8% said they use flavored e-cigarettes. Gottlieb said that his recent calls for manufacturers to help prevent youth access to their products, as well as the unveiling of the FDA’s Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan and efforts to identify retailers who illegally sell e-cigs to minors, were partially in response to the survey’s raw data.

“Given the startling and disturbing youth use rates in the 2018 NYTS data being released today, it’s clear that we must do more — specifically, several policy changes to target what appear to be the central problems — youth appeal and youth access to flavored tobacco products,” Gottlieb said.

He has called on the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products to restrict the sale of flavored products besides tobacco, mint and menthol flavors, as well as non-flavored e-cig products, in stores, with increased security around the products online as well. Additionally, Gottlieb is pushing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at banning menthol in cigarettes and cigars, as well as a policy to ban flavors in cigars. The FDA also will seek to remove products that are marketed toward children from shelves. It is leaving mint and menthol e-cigarette offerings alone for now, though Gottlieb said that if youth use of such products doesn’t decline, he may revisit the issue.

“This policy framework reflects a re-doubling of the FDA’s efforts to protect kids from all nicotine-containing products,” Gottlieb said. “They also reflect a very careful public health balance that we’re trying to achieve. A balance between closing the on-ramp for kids to become addicted to nicotine through combustible and non-combustible products while maintaining access to potentially less harmful forms of nicotine delivery through ENDS for adult smokers seeking to transition away from combustible tobacco products.

Gottlieb’s comments followed recent efforts by Juul Labs, maker of the eponymous e-cigarette to only sell its flavored products online, where it can verify a shopper’s age and prevent bulk sales.

CVS health, which removed tobacco products from CVS Pharmacy stores in 2014, lauded the FDA’s policy goals.

"We applaud the FDA's decision to restrict access to flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products, which have been expertly marketed and targeted at teens and young adults and has contributed to a dramatic rise in e-cigarette use among high school students," said Troyen Brennan, CVS Health chief medical officer. "E-cigarette use among teens has also been directly correlated to a spike in cigarette smoking, after reaching historic lows. Through these new regulations, the FDA can help curb the e-cigarette epidemic and make a positive impact on public health for generations to come."