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FDA Declares Youth Vaping “Epidemic,” Threatens to Halt Sales of E-Cigarettes

Youth vaping—the smoking of flavored electronic cigarettes—is an “epidemic,” according to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. He said the agency will halt sales of e-cigarettes if major manufacturers can’t prove they’re doing enough to keep their products out of the hands of children and teens.

“Teenagers are becoming regular users, and the proportion of regular users is increasing,” Gottlieb said. “We’re going to have to take action. No one can look at the data and say there’s no problem.”

More than two million middle school, high school, and college students use the battery-powered devices to heat liquid-based nicotine into an inhalable vapor. Nearly 12% of high school students and 3% of middle school students used the device in the past 30 days, according to the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

In an interview with USA Today, Gottlieb said the FDA is “reconsidering our overall approach” after reviewing preliminary data on youth vaping. It is giving manufacturers of Juul, Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu, and Logic 60 days to submit “robust” plans to prevent youth vaping.

If the agency decides the companies’ plans don’t meet expectations, it could order their products off the market. Those five brands make up more than 97% of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes.

Some manufacturers have taken steps to make it more difficult for children and teens to get e-cigarettes. Juul, for example, requires age-verified signature on delivery. However, critics contend that the best-selling brands aren’t doing enough to stop underage vaping.

Recently, the FDA conducted its largest enforcement effort yet against e-cigarettes. The agency targeted more than 1,300 online and brick-and-mortar retailers with warning letters or civil penalties for selling to minors. Officials said 131 of the retailers will have to pay penalties.

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