On April 24, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration announced that protecting our youth from the dangers of tobacco products is an important responsibility, and therefore steps must be put into place to decrease youth access to and use of tobacco and nicotine products.
One such measure the FDA is considering is to reduce the nicotine content in cigarettes rendering them “minimally or non-addictive” thus preventing youth from becoming addicted in the first place. In order for that plan to be put into place, the FDA also has to set up rules for regulating non-combustible products such as e-cigarettes. While the FDA is working to decrease youth experimentation of tobacco products, it must also make sure they aren’t using other nicotine delivery systems
A new Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan with a focus on “stopping youth use of tobacco products, and in particular, e-cigarettes” is being put into place. In the past several years use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), usually referred to as e-cigarettes, have skyrocketed among youth. One product in particular, the JUUL brand, has higher levels of nicotine, resembles a USB flash drive, uses fruit and dessert flavors, and produces an aerosol vapor that is difficult to see, making them attractive for youth to use even in a school setting. Other brands of nicotine delivery products have similar characteristics as the JUUL. The majority of these products contain nicotine, which many users may not be aware they are using, and can “rewire an adolescent’s brain” leading to years of addiction.
The FDA has already taken steps for regulation and enforcement of the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, specifically JUUL products, at both retail stores and online retailers. This crack down, which started on April 6 and will continue throughout the month, has found numerous violations of the law. Since the beginning of March the FDA has uncovered “40 violations for illegal sales of JUUL products to youth” and warning letters have been sent out. The FDA has pledged their continued enforcement of the law in an effort to reduce sales to minors and says they will hold retailers accountable for any sales to youth. As part of this effort, the FDA contacted online seller eBay over sales of JUUL products on its website. eBay has since removed the listings and will prevent any future listings on their website. Other manufacturers will be contacted directly and the FDA will hold them accountable for any sales to youth.
The FDA has also requested information from the manufacturers that will help them understand why kids find these products appealing. An official request for information has already been sent to JUUL Labs asking for specific documentation to address the high rate of youth use, product marketing, the effects of their products on health, as well as any consumer complaints they may have received. Other manufacturers will also be sent letters. Not complying with the FDA requests will be considered violation of the law and subject to enforcement.
According to the FDA, JUUL Labs recognizes there is a problem and hopes to address the concerns with the FDA and stakeholders. But the FDA says more needs to be done as it is not acceptable for any child to be marketed to, sold to or use tobacco products. Not only does the FDA have a responsibility to prevent kids from getting hooked on nicotine, but so do the companies making these products.
As the FDA is going after the manufacturers, they are also launching an e-cigarette prevention campaign to educate youth about the dangers of e-cigarettes and all tobacco products. The launch will take place under “The Real Cost” brand starting in September.
The FDA understands that ENDS products like e-cigarettes could provide a less harmful alternative to smoking for those addicted adult smokers who still want some form of nicotine. However, the success of these products are weakened if kids are attracted to them.
Kudos to the FDA for recognizing the e-cigarette problem among youth and taking steps to protect the health of our next generation. While the agency turns to the manufacturers for answers as to why the products are appealing to youth, perhaps the agency should talk to the youth themselves for the answers. We know one way to curtail youth use would be to make Tobacco 21 a federal law. Perhaps it is time for this law to take effect.
Click HERE for the FDA announcement