The FDA took the largest enforcement action against more than 1,300 retailers and five manufacturers of selling e-cigarettes on Wednesday.
The FDA sent 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers in “a large-scale, undercover nationwide blitz to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors”. The agency also imposed fines – ranging from $279 to $11,182 – on another 130 establishments for repeated offenses.
“We must do more to stem what I see as an epidemic of use of e-cigs among teens, and deeply disturbing trends that show no sign of abating”, he said. The companies sell Vuse, Blu, Juul, MarkTen XL, and Logic e-cigarette brands, which account for 97 percent of US e-cigarette sales, according to FDA.
Eaton, a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health, said that “in some circumstances, such as their use by nonsmoking adolescents and young adults, their adverse effects clearly warrant concern”.
A Juul spokesperson, Victoria Davis, argued in a statement to Reuters that “appropriate flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch”.
Gottlieb’s action drew immediate praise from a major tobacco-control organization, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
In his speech, Gottlieb argued that the Trump administration’s delay of application deadlines from 2018 to 2022 would not have changed where things now stand, since the products would have still been on the market for most of this year.
All three of those companies compete with Juul in the e-cigarette market – but, unlike Juul, they also sell regular cigarettes, meaning a government crackdown on e-cigarettes doesn’t hurt as much.
“This could result in a bullet through the head of Juul, the driver of youth initiation”, said Nico von Stackelberg, an analyst with Liberum in London.
“We need to go further”, said Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire philanthropist who has worked for years to reduce tobacco use.
Medical experts still don’t know the potential risks of vaping, though most agree it’s safer than smoking traditional cigarettes, according to a local physician.
The FDA has given makers of e-cigarettes until 2022 to seek its approval for products that were on the market by August 2016. Despite the constant warnings that increased experimentation with e-cigarettes would lead to more smoking, consumption of conventional cigarettes by teenagers stubbornly continues to decline, reaching a record low a year ago in the Monitoring the Future Study, which began in 1975.
In April, the FDA requested documents from JUUL that may shed light on whether the company marketed its products to younger audiences.
However, there is little consensus about how to regulate the industry. They noted the survey did not ask specifically about Juul, a sleek, heavily-marketed e-cigarette brand that exploded onto the market and accounts for 70 percent of US sales, according to analyst estimates. Sales were allowed to continue in the interim.
Following Wednesday’s announcement, tobacco stocks surged then pared some of those gains on Thursday.
These levels of nicotine are highly addictive, particularly to the developing brains of children and teenagers.
“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. But past year Gottlieb delayed the deadline until 2022, saying both the agency and industry needed more time to prepare. The FDA has pressed Juul in recent months for information about its marketing. The FDA declined to release the figures publicly. Youth tobacco prevention is a priority for our companies.
Still, Myers said, there’s “no way to put that genie back in the bottle” with youth use. About two-thirds of them quit after beginning to use Juul.