Federal regulators are warning of pulling out e-cigarettes from shelves if manufacturers do not control teenage use, which according to analysts has already reached epidemic levels.
The Food and Drug Administration was ready to embrace e-cigarettes as a way to peel adult smokers away from cigarettes, but the agency is reconsidering its approach after it saw scores of teens vaping. The crackdown by the FDA includes historic actions against over 1,300 retailers as well as five major manufacturers for their roles in “perpetuating youth access,” said the agency.
“E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous – and dangerous – trend among teenagers,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end. The FDA cannot tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a trade-off for enabling adults to access these products.”
The e-cig craze has led what’s perhaps the biggest spike of teen nicotine use in decades after years of driving cigarette smoking rates to record lows.
The FDA is particularly ordering five brands –Juul, British American Tobacco’s Vuse, Altria’s MarkTen, Imperial Brands’ Blu E-cigs, and Japan Tobacco’s Logic – to submit plans within 60 days. The plans would have to detail how the brands will prevent teens from using their products.
The agency may require the companies to revise their sales and marketing practices, to halt the distribution of products to retailers who sell to kids, and to stop selling some or all of their flavored e-cigarette products until they finish the application process.
Between now and the 60-day deadline, the FDA will investigate manufacturers’ marketing and sales practices, including both “boots on the ground inspections.”
A Juul spokeswoman said that the company will work proactively with the FDA in response to its request.
“We welcome the FDA’s actions today, and we look forward to sharing our thoughts about how to prevent and reduce youth usage, an issue we’ve focused on for decades,” said an Atria spokesman.
Fontem Ventures, which is a subsidiary of Imperial Brands, stated that it’s “evaluating today’s request and statement from the FDA,” though it welcomes “the opportunity to demonstrate and work with the FDA to further strengthen” its youth access prevention policies and procedures.
A Logic spokesman stated that the company has received the agency’s request, saying that it will “continue to work with the agency to demonstrate” that it “markets its products only to adults.”
BAT will provide the agency with a detailed plan in 60 days, according to a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Vapor, which is a unit of BAT.
Tobacco stocks spiked on news of the FDA’s action.
As part of the FDA’s biggest coordinated action against illegal sales, the agency has sent warning letters to more than 1,100 retailers that are selling e-cigarettes to teens in spite of a federal ban on sales to minor. It has fined 131 retailers, with fines ranging from $279 to $11,182.