The Food and Drug Administration has just released another press announcement regarding their efforts to reduce tobacco use, especially among our youth, that started in late 2017. They are citing companies that are labeling and/or advertising their electronic cigarette liquids in familiar kid-friendly food packaging. So far 13 warning letters have been sent out regarding this matter.
No child should ever be using tobacco products, but to market these products with imagery that makes kids think it is safe to eat or drink is misleading and dangerous, and could result in serious physical injury or even death. While the FDA is encouraging companies to develop “less harmful forms of nicotine delivery for currently addicted adult smokers,” they want limited product appeal to youth.
The FDA is targeting electronic cigarette/vaping products that look like children’s apple juice boxes, popular sour candies, and look-alike cookie products. One product resembles Reddi-whip dairy topping while another product looks like a unicorn pop lollipop and is even shipped with one. These imitations of food products are a clear “violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because their labeling and/or advertising imitating kid-friendly foods is false or misleading.” The Federal Trade Commission Act “prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising” and the FTC joined the FDA on issuing warning letters. The companies that were targeted have 15 working days to respond on what actions they will take to address the concerns. Failure to respond to the letter “may result in further action such as seizure or injunction.” It is evident from the pictures these companies and products are clearly targeting our youth.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that as electronic nicotine devices (ENDS) became more popular, the rise of calls to poison control centers and emergency room visits also increased. Children are at greater risk of acute toxicity due to exposure of even small amounts of nicotine in the e-liquids which could result in seizure, coma, respiratory arrest or even cardiac arrest.
As more the 2 million middle and high school students are drawn to e-cigarettes due to the flavorings, the FDA is working to enforce existing regulations to keep ENDS products out of their hands. Many of the e-cigarette liquids contain nicotine and exposure affects the developing brain. It may also “rewire it to be more susceptible to nicotine addiction in the future.”
Teens are turning to online sales of nicotine products to avoid age requirements, and the FDA has taken steps to end the online sales of JUUL, one vaping device currently popular among teens. Requiring only face-to-face sales of nicotine products will also decrease youth purchasing of tobacco and vaping devices. Raising the age limit for tobacco sales to 21 throughout the U.S. will also make it more difficult for underage youth. Our kids are too important for us to lose another generation to nicotine addiction.