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FDA, E-Cig Manufacturers Meet To Discuss Curbing Youth Use

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Five prominent e-cigarette manufacturers met with federal regulators recently to discuss the rising epidemic of youth e-cigarette use and addiction, and steps that may be required to prevent teens from developing what may become a life-long habit. 

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement this week, announcing that the agency has called on the e-cigarette companies to submit written plans outlining steps that will take to confront the rising trends in youth e-cigarette use.

The five manufacturers included Altria Group Inc., JUUL labs Inc., Reynolds American Inc., Fontem Ventures, and Japan Tobacco International USA Inc., which make up 97% of the current market for closed system e-cigarettes.

“For the e-cigarette industry, my message was simple: Step up,” Gottlieb wrote. “We have warned for more than a year that the availability of e-cigarettes cannot come at the expense of addicting a generation of youth on nicotine through these products. We gave ample warnings of the worrisome trends we were observing with respect to rising youth popularity of these products. Now we have hard data to support that public health tragedy that is now underway.”

Recent studies have found that side effects of e-cigarettes expose users to many toxic chemicals which are carcinogenic to the human body.

JUUL devices, which have led in overall sales, are of particular concern because they expose users to high nicotine levels. One pod of juice contains as much nicotine as one and a half to two packs of cigarettes.

Each of the five companies markets products that have been recently sold illegally to minors through brick-and-mortar stores or online.

The companies acknowledged the serious health consequences associated with youth use of e-cigarettes, Gottlieb said. They also acknowledged the role flavored e-cigarette liquid  plays in the appeal to the youth, but also indicated flavors are important for helping adult smokers quit.

Gottlieb’s statement indicates that the companies admitted preventing youth e-cigarette use must be a priority. To that end, they recommend certain steps they believe the FDA can take to combat the problem, including restricting e-liquid flavors from youth by requiring age verification on flavored products and other products more appealing to teens.

Those products can also be pulled from the market for a period of time until they can receive premarket authorization from the FDA. Some of the companies, but not all, indicated they would support raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco, including e-cigarettes, to 21 years of age.

The companies agree any potential benefits e-cigarettes may have to adult smokers who are attempting to quit traditional cigarettes cannot justify significant increases in youth use trends and addiction, Gottlieb said.

The FDA has launched a prevention campaign aimed at reducing youth e-cigarette use. The campaign is one of many steps the agency has taken and plans to take in the future to tackle the large problem of reducing youth e-cigarette use.

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