E-cigarette use is an 'epidemic', FDA chief says

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What's more, e-cigarette liquids like Juul pods contain high concentrations of nicotine. "So, now, I'm able to tell them, 'I no longer smoke cigarettes'". It was "the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the FDA's history", according to the agency.

"We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, and we must adjust certain aspects of our comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a press release.

The FDA is giving the five top-selling e-cigarette brands - Juul, Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu and Logic - 60 days to provide plans for how they will mitigate sales to minors.

The FDA's suggestions include rigorous age verification procedures for online direct sales (which Juul, the market leader, says it already has) and "discontinuing sales to retail establishments that have been subject to an FDA civil monetary penalty for sale of tobacco products to minors within the prior 12 months". "As students start their new school year, I encourage educators, parents, and health care providers to come together and raise awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes on our youth, so we can quickly address these troubling trends and put a full-stop to them". But when it comes to minors, he said, even e-cigarettes should be off limits.

The FDA says it has issued "more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers" as a result of "a large-scale, undercover nationwide blitz to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors".

Lee said while he believes vaping is a good alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, it's still not for everyone.

Gottlieb reiterated his belief that certain e-cigarette liquid flavors - including sweet ones such as mango and cucumber, popular among teenage Juul users - are particularly enticing and even marketed directly to children.

"I think it became clear to FDA that if they didn't get their arms around this issue the use of these products by kids across the nation would undo decades of progress", said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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Under regulations developed by the Obama administration, manufacturers were supposed to submit most products for review by August 2018.

During the 60-day waiting period, the FDA plans to investigate the five companies' marketing and sales practices, with possible "boots on the ground inspections", Gottlieb said.

Hutsell says that he lost his mother to lung cancer after she smoked for over 30 years and that he wishes vaping was available for her back then.

And some of the retailers that received warning letters are still advertising and selling these products, he said.

"If young adults go online and buy 100 units of a product to sell to teens, that activity ought to be easy for a product manufacturer to identify", said Gottlieb.

The FDA is in the process of rolling out a sweeping anti-smoking initiative created to make it easier for smokers to quit by cutting the nicotine levels in regular cigarettes.

The FDA is trying to set up a framework for regulating e-cigarettes.

"In my view, they treated these issues like a public relations challenge rather than seriously considering their legal obligations, the public health mandate, and the existential threat to these products".

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