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The consumer watchdog group Public Citizen indicates that the FDA is partially to blame for the current vaping epidemic among teens in the United States, criticizing the agency for refusing to take real action to impede the distribution of e-cigarettes to children.
In a November Health Letter, Public Citizen labeled the FDA’s inaction on the teen vaping epidemic as the “Outrage of the Month”, highlighting the current acting administrator’s own admission to Congress that the agency had failed to act in a timely manner to prevent the meteoric rise in teen nicotine addiction linked to vaping.
Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless testified before a U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in September, admitting that the agency “should have acted sooner” to combat the vaping industry.
Public Citizen says one of those actions should have been removing them from the market, since they are currently there illegally.
“Remarkably, as Sharpless stated in his Sept. 25 testimony before Congress, all e-cigarettes currently marketed in the U.S. – including those currently being used by adolescents across the country – are illegal,” Public Citizen states. “Under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 (the Tobacco Control Act) and subsequent rules issued by the FDA in 2016, a nicotine vaping product may not be legally marketed unless it has undergone scientific review by the FDA and the agency has determined that marketing the product is appropriate for the protection of human health. No nicotine vaping products have undergone such review.”
Public Citizen points out that FDA has had authority to regulate e-cigarettes under the Tobacco Control Act for five years, but allowed e-cigarettes to remain on the market in violation of the law, and said the agency’s “foot-dragging” has allowed tens of millions of youths to develop nicotine addictions.
JUUL Teen Epidemic
Recent FDA data indicates teen e-cigarette use has reached epidemic levels in the United States, and JUUL Labs has been accused of fueling the growing nicotine addiction problems among teens in the United States, as a result of the design of their product and marketing that intentionally targeted teens and prior non-smokers.
In addition to designing JUUL to look like a USB thumb drive, the manufacturer also marketed and sold JUUL pods in various candy-like flavors, which has resulted in a large number of teens and prior non-smokers starting to vape, and developing addictions to the high levels of nicotine contained in the pods.
A recent study indicated that e-cigarette advertising reaches 80% of middle and high school students in the U.S. Another study warns that vaping during adolescence quadruples a teen’s risk of becoming a cigarette tobacco smoker later.
On September 9, the FDA issued a warning letter to JUUL, indicating there was evidence it told school-aged children that its products were safer than cigarettes, which has not been proven. The Trump Administration has also indicated it intends to put in place some kind of ban or restrictions on e-cigarettes, but that has yet to materialize.
In addition, federal and state health experts are investigating the cause of widespread respiratory illness linked to JUUL and other vaping products, including more than 30 deaths. The FDA is also investigating whether JUUL is linked to nearly 130 cases of e-cigarette-related seizures.
In September, JUUL ceased all advertising in the U.S. and it’s CEO resigned. In October, JUUL announced it was removing all flavored products except mint, menthol and tobacco flavors from the market.
A growing number of JUUL addiction lawsuits are now pursued against the manufacturers, alleging that the products were illegally marketed to kids while failing to disclose that each of the e-cigarette pods contain more nicotine than a pack of tobacco cigarettes.