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FDA to limit sale of sweet flavored e-cigarettes in hope of curbing teen vaping  4 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

The Food and Drug Administration is planning to limit the sale of sweet electronic cigarette flavors in an attempt to curtail what its commissioner has called an "epidemic" of teen vaping, according to an agency official.

The FDA will ban convenience store and gas station sales of flavors other than tobacco, mint and menthol next week, the official said. Stricter age-verification requirements are also planned for online sales of e-cigarettes.

The overwhelming majority of e-cigarette sales are through brick-and-mortar retail outlets, so the FDA's move would have a huge negative effect on business. It also is likely to draw legal action.

Lyle Beckwith, a lobbyist with the National Association of Convenience Stores, said the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act "expressly forbids" the FDA from discriminating against any "channel of trade." 

He predicted a lawsuit seeking to block the FDA restrictions. He said the very definition of what differentiates a vape store from a convenience store could be difficult to determine. 

Juul, the most popular brand with teens, would be hit particularly hard by the planned FDA restrictions. The company declined to comment. 

New federal data out Thursday showed the percentage of people who smoke cigarettes in the United States fell to 14 percent in 2017, the lowest level since records have been kept.

Gottlieb and other public health officials are trying to strike a balance between the use of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers quit combustible tobacco and not hooking a new generation on nicotine through e-cigarettes.

Liz Mair, a spokeswoman for Vapers United, called the plan an "ill-conceived and exceptionally dangerous move."

The group is funded by vape store owners and vapers, but does not accept tobacco company funding, she says. 

"Spoiler alert: The overwhelming majority of these smokers looking to quit will keep on smoking, with all the attendant, massively negative health consequences, including death," Mair said. 

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in September that the agency would halt sales of flavored electronic cigarettes if the major manufacturers couldn't prove they were doing enough to keep them out of the hands of children and teens. 

The agency gave Juul, Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu and Logic 60 days to submit plans to prevent youth vaping and said it could order their products off the market if it didn't deem those plans robust enough. Those five brands make up more than 97 percent of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes.

Those plans are due next week, but the FDA wasn't waiting to make a decision. 

Gottlieb told USA TODAY in September that the FDA was "reconsidering our overall approach" after a review of preliminary data showed youth vaping was up 75 percent over last year.

"Teenagers are becoming regular users, and the proportion of regular users is increasing," said Gottlieb. "We’re going to have to take action."

The planned restrictions would not apply to vape shops or other specialty retail stores, which are more often used by adults who are using vaping to try to quit smoking. 

Beckwith, who serves on the board of the nonprofit group We Card, said the FDA has acknowledged convenience stores' efforts to educate store owners about the need to verify vape buyers' ages. He questioned the leeway vape stores will have on selling fruit and other sweet flavors of vape liquid.

He also said online sales of e-cigarettes should be governed by the same law that requires proof of age upon delivery. 

"The issue of not having a level playing field is what has us concerned," Beckwith said. 

The FDA plans were first reported by the Washington Post.

 

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