E-cigarettes could be banned in US, FDA says

Commissioner warns it could be ‘game over’ for popular e-cigarettes if use continues to rise among youth

Chris Riotta
New York
Saturday 19 January 2019 19:46
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E-cigarettes and vaping products face an "existential threat" in the US if their use among young people continues to rise, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned.

Scott Gottlieb spoke on Friday at a public hearing in Maryland focused on eliminating the use of "electronic cigarette and other tobacco product use" among American youth, at a time when the agency has threatened stores selling e-cigarettes to minors and seized thousands of documents from Juul Labs, the maker of a popular vaporising product, during a surprise inspection of the company's corporate headquarters.

“I’ll tell you this. If the youth use continues to rise, and we see significant increases in use in 2019, on top of the dramatic rise in 2018, the entire category will face an existential threat,” Mr Gottlieb said. “It could be ‘game over’ for some these products until they can successfully traverse the regulatory process. I think the stakes are that high.”

The commissioner added the possible removal of e-cigarette products “would be a blow” for adult smokers, who he said “could potentially benefit from these products.”

Mr Gottlieb pointed to the Juul brand when discussing the rise of e-cigarette use among high school youth, saying, “Indeed, the ubiquity of this one product became so entrenched so quickly that it gave rise to its own verb — julling.’”

The company responded with a statement denouncing e-cigarette use among minors, calling it “completely unacceptable” and “directly opposed to our mission of eliminating cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes”.

“We are moving full steam ahead on implementing our action plan to limit youth usage,” Ted Kwong, a spokesperson for Juul Labs, told The Hill. “This is unchanged since we announced our plan in November.”

“We will be a transparent, engaged, and committed partner with FDA, state attorneys general, local municipalities, and community organizations in the effort to combat underage use,” he added.

The FDA previously released a slate of restrictions on e-cigarette flavours and proposed a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavoured cigars — a move that would possibly require accompanying legislation.

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The agency stopped just short on a reported consideration to ban e-cigarettes from being sold in stores where they could be accessible to minors, instead allowing them to continue being sold with the exception that they are in closed-off areas and out of reach from teens.

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