There is always that one person who ruins it for everyone else; the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. In this case it was Juul e-cigarettes with their unique style, flavors and internet sales that drove teen use skyrocketing into epidemic proportions and prompted the Food and Drug Administration to finally take control of the situation.
Next week the FDA will start putting restrictions in place which “are aimed at limiting access to pod-style e-cigarettes” such as the Juul, which has gained 75% of the U.S. e-cigarette market, not including online sales. To be fair all cartridge style e-cigarettes popular with teens will fall under these new restrictions; however tank systems are exempt. The policy will take effect immediately.
If you want to sell flavored pod-style e-cigarettes, they must be in a separate area inside the store that is unavailable to minors or you restrict minors from the store. Flavors not under the new restrictions include mint, menthol and tobacco, but these flavors could face restrictions if youth use continues to rise.
Nationwide high school use has increased 75% since last year with 20% of high school students using vaping devices; middle school use has increased 50%. Florida youth ages 11-17 has seen a 60.2% increase in current use of electronic vaping in the past year alone. Broken down, high school students who have ever tried vaping is at 37.9% for 2018, an increase of 18.1% in the past year, with middle school students at 14.7% for 2018, an increase of 18.5% over 2017. High school students currently vaping is at 24.8%, up 58.0% over 2017; middle school is at 7.8%, an increase of 44.4% over last year. Kids in Florida and throughout the U.S. cannot continue seeing increases in nicotine product use.
The head of the FDA considered removing e-cigarettes totally from the market back in September. Instead, he gave the major e-cigarette manufacturers an ultimatum: work with the FDA on a plan to reduce teen use or risk having their products banned. “Strict age verification controls for online sales” will also be required.
The new proposals are a great start, not quite a total ban, but enough to hopefully see a decrease in use. But there are some issues with the plan:
– first, kids know how to refill closed pod-type cartridges; YouTube is filled with instructions. Unless kid-friendly flavors are totally banned for all vaping devices, the trend can continue with nary a blimp.
– second, all internet sales of nicotine products should be outright banned, not merely restricted. Nicotine products should only be sold in face-to-face transactions, no matter the age of the purchaser. Wasn’t that one of the reasons for putting limits on cigarette vending machine sales? At least there should have been a six month moratorium on internet sales.
– third, increasing the national tobacco age to 21 will further deter teen use. It is easy for at 15 or 16 year old to look 18, it is more difficult to look 21. And it will keep high school students who are 18 from purchasing products for younger peers.
– finally, while the FDA talked to e-cigarette manufacturers to give them a say in the new restrictions, were public health advocates and those on the front lines of national youth tobacco prevention programs also given a say on the new restrictions?
The new restrictions cover how e-cigarette manufacturers are going to keep kids from purchasing their products, but it doesn’t mention what will happen to retailers who continue to sell to minors. It’s time for tougher restrictions in that area as well.
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