Vaping among teens has become such an epidemic that the FDA is threatening to pull e-cigarettes from the market. FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb provided data about dramatic increases in youth vaping at a public hearing on Friday. The FDA pointed to marketing and advertising done by e-cig vendors that lures children into trying their product.
According to Gottlieb, youth vaping increased by 78% in high schoolers from 2017-2018. Middle school vaping increased by 48%. In the past year, 1.5 million more student now use e-cigarettes for a total of 3.6 million youth users.
Of the teens that vape, 27% of them are smoking regularly and using products 20 or more days per month. Flavored e-cigarettes are the product of choice for youth vapers with 67.8% of them using flavored products.
Gottlieb directed his frustration around youth vaping toward the flavored products.
“This youth use continues to grow. Even if we’re successful at implementing our regulatory steps to address the access and appeal of these products to kids, those actions will take time to have their full effect. Meanwhile, the appeal of these products to children, and the resulting increase in youth use, shows no sign of abating.”
As he continued, Gottlieb said that he expects the youth vaping numbers to continue to increase. If youth vaping numbers continue to swell, Gottlieb threatened to pull the products from the market,
“I find myself debating with tobacco makers and retailers the merits of selling fruity flavors in ways that remain easily accessible to kids. But if the epidemic continues to mount, I’m sure that the debate will change to one of whether these products should continue to be marketed at all without authorized pre-market tobacco applications.
It could be “game over” for some these products until they can successfully traverse the regulatory process. I think the stakes are that high. And would be a blow for all of the currently addicted adult smokers who, I believe, could potentially benefit from these products.”
Additionally, Gottlieb criticized manufacturers of e-cigarettes about their marketing of the products. Despite efforts by the FDA to change the advertising of e-cigs, manufacturers have not responded appropriately.
“It matters if the e-cig makers can’t honor even modest, voluntary commitments that they made to the FDA. It informs how we shape our regulatory policies and our enforcement activities.”
Data collected by the FDA indicates that youth vapers are attracted to flavored e-cigs. Access to the products isn’t hard for youth. Youth vapers find brick and mortar retailers and online sources to purchase the e-cigs.
Thus far any commitments made by vendors to change their marketing has been voluntary. Because they haven’t lived up to their obligations, Gottlieb said the FDA might stop vendors from marketing unless they complete a pre-market authorized tobacco application.
As the increase in youth vaping continues, the FDA promised to work on reducing the number. They plan to develop ways to market the products that are less appealing to the kids. The FDA may also consider if flavored products can stay on the market.
Perhaps the biggest losers of these proposed changes, are adult cigarette smokers. Vaping continues to help millions of adults wean off of cigarettes and stop smoking. The products have helped reduce the overall number of adults smoking traditional cigarettes.However, the benefits to adults do not outweigh what the is happening with youth vaping. Teens are becoming addicted to the e-cigs. Often teens are not aware the e-cigs contain nicotine. Gottlieb says they become addicted without fully understanding the ramifications of vaping.
Because so many teens are now addicted, the FDA will need to focus attention more attention to education about the dangers of the products. Also, the FDA will focus on finding more resources and programs to help teens quit vaping.
The message delivered by Gottlieb was crystal clear. Either vaping companies live up to their commitments and promises, or the FDA will pull the products.
Read the full statement from Scott Gottlieb here.
*Katie Joy is a blogger and freelance writer. Her work is featured on Upworthy, Huffington Post, Yahoo Parents, Mamamia, Daily Beast, Cafe Stir, Newsweek, Jezebel, and The Daily Mail. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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