Remember those electronic cigarette nicotine e-liquids sold in kid-friendly containers that resembled food products such as apple juice boxes? “All 17 manufacturers, distributors and retailers have stopped selling” them in the friendly packaging. Of course, receiving warning letters in May from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) labeling the products “false or misleading” certainly helped. These manufacturers would not have done this on their own.
While the FDA says they “encourage the innovation of novel and potentially less harmful products such as e-cigarettes for currently addicted adult smokers,” they have a responsibility to “ensure these products aren’t being marketed to, sold to, or used by kids.” Removing these products from the market will protect our kids “from the dangers of nicotine and tobacco products. This won’t be the last word from the FDA as they will continue to take action against manufacturers who produce products that appeal to kids and manufacturers that allow these products into the hands of children.
In late 2017, the FDA began investigating tobacco product labeling and advertising that imitated food products and were marketed to appeal to kids. These were “considered misbranded and sold in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because their labeling and/or advertising imitating kid-friendly foods was misleading.” The FTC joined the FDA in 13 of the 17 warning letters “which prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising.”
Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), such as e-cigarettes, are more than just flavored liquid in an easy-to-inhale aerosol. Most liquids contain nicotine which “can harm brain development in ways that may affect the health and mental health of our kids,” according to the Report of the Surgeon General on E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Youth Adults. Yet most kids were unaware that nicotine was present. More than 2 million middle and high school students were current users of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) products in 2016 and flavors have contributed to their popularity.
The FDA is looking into ways “to make tobacco products less toxic, appealing and addictive, with an intense focus on youth.” Current measures include child-resistant packaging and labeling to prevent accidental poisonings, and “flavors/designs that appeal to youth.” In March the FDA issued an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” regarding the role tobacco product flavors play in attracting youth. They are also looking at “additional restrictions on the sale and promotion of ENDS to further reduce youth exposure and access to these products.”
As for the practice of packaging e-liquids in kid-friendly packaging, the manufacturers were aware that the packaging would appeal to kids and ended the practice, but not before they were warned.
Taking a page from Big Tobacco, the vaping industry marketed the products to appeal to youth and ended the practice once they were caught. Meanwhile, millions of kids believe these products are “safer” and “less harmful” than cigarettes, not understanding they are highly addictive. Perhaps it is time the vaping industry is forced to compare the safety of their product to not vaping, versus comparing it to cigarettes. When you look at it that way, it doesn’t seem safe or harmless after all.
Click HERE for the entire FDA press release.