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FDA Bans Store Sales of Flavored E-Cigarettes — Critics say, NOT ENOUGH!

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken the much-needed step of banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in retail stores. The move could prevent a new generation of youths from getting hooked on nicotine. Why? Because the electronic-inhalation devices come in as many sweet combinations as Jelly Bellys and have lured children to smoke.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the devices now must be sold in stores with age restrictions and that stores now must card anyone who buys them.

“The data show that kids using e-cigarettes are going to be more likely to try combustible cigarettes later,” Dr. Gottlieb said in a statement. “This is a large pool of future risk. The policies I’m outlining now strives to strike a careful public health balance between our imperative to enable the opportunities to transition to non-combustible products to be available for adults; and our solemn mandate to make nicotine products less accessible and less appealing to children.”

The data to which he is referring are shocking but not surprising given how vape shops advertise and market their goods. A Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that e-cigarette use among high-school students increased to 20.8 percent in 2018 from 1.5 percent in 2011, meaning one in five ninth- through 12th-graders vape. During 2017-18 alone, usage jumped 78 percent. The news is less horrifying at the middle-school level, where one in 20 sixth- through eighth-graders vape. Again, during 2017-18 alone, usage jumped 48 percent. The grand total of youths firing up: 3.6 million.

“These new data show that America faces an epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, which threatens to engulf a new generation in nicotine addiction,” Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), said in a press release. “By one measure, the rate of youth e-cigarette use almost doubled in the last year, which confirms the need for FDA’s ongoing policy proposals and enforcement actions.”

All agencies involved are trying to balance the fine line between youth addiction and adult addiction, as e-cigarettes are a means of helping adult smokers curb their cravings and eventually kick the habit. For that reason, menthol- and mint-flavored e-cigarettes will not be part of the ban. But regardless of the fine line, the bottom line is that youth vaping is on the rise – dramatically. Bloomberg says the FDA needs to take an even stricter stance.

“It plans to ban the sale of candy-flavored e-cigarettes in stores (or parts of stores) that are not “age-restricted” – but that’s an ill-defined distinction hard to enforce, so sales could continue in many convenience stores,” reads an opinion piece. “Online sales would still be permitted. And there’d be no restriction on where menthol- and mint-flavored e-cigarettes can be sold.”

Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, neither minced words.

“Tobacco is a major threat to children’s health, no matter the form it takes,” Dr. Kraft said in a statement. “The American Academy of Pediatrics commends the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for taking new actions to help protect children from tobacco products and urges the agency to do more to stop the growing public health crisis of e-cigarette use among youth.

“FDA action to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, proven starter products for young people, will save thousands of today’s children from death and disease due to smoking,” she continued. “But just as flavored cigarettes appeal to children and teens, so do flavored e-cigarettes. FDA can and must do more to protect children and teens from these dangerous products.

“New data released today confirm what pediatricians have long been warning: e-cigarettes are threatening to addict a generation of young people to nicotine,” she added. “Not only are we seeing a staggering increase in the number of high schoolers who use e-cigarettes, we’re seeing that more and more of them have moved beyond experimentation and are using e-cigarettes almost daily. This should be a call to action for FDA to take immediate, meaningful steps to stop this trend.

“Even with new sales restrictions announced today by FDA preventing flavored e-cigarettes from being sold at certain brick and mortar storefronts, teens will still find ways to access them,” she concluded. “E-cigarette products that appeal to children have no business in the marketplace, period. FDA must take stronger action to protect young people. Pediatricians will not rest until these dangerous products are off the market and out of the hands of children and adolescents.”

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