The use of electronic cigarettes by youths “has reached an epidemic proportion,” the leader of the Food and Drug Administration said last week.
Commissioner Scott Gottlieb gave the manufacturers of popular vaping devices, like Juul, 60 days to make plans to limit their sales to minors or risk seeing their products pulled from the market pending new federal regulations. He also announced new enforcement actions against retailers who sell the products.
In addition, the commissioner said the FDA would announce this week a national campaign to warn teenagers of the dangers of nicotine and e-cigarette use via “online sites that we know teenagers access, and even to high school bathrooms.”
“We’re committed to the comprehensive approach to address addiction to nicotine that we announced last year,” Gottlieb said. “But at the same time, we see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, and we must adjust certain aspects of our comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger.”
Vaping products are popular among adults who use them as an off ramp to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. But public-health experts warn they have a thriving secondary market among young people, who may become addicted to the nicotine devices even if they have never smoked a traditional cigarette.
As Education Week has reported, schools have struggled to detect small vaping devices, like the Juul, and to keep students from carrying them—or even using them—in their hallways, restrooms, and classrooms.
Among the concerns Gottlieb highlighted: Some e-cigarette flavors seem targeted at young people, and e-cigarette companies that sell their products online may be prone to “straw purchases,” in which one person buys a large quantity of devices to offer them for resale to underage users.
A version of this article appeared in the September 19, 2018 edition of Education Week as Vaping Reaches Epidemic Level, FDA Warns