On November 15, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement in response to the spike in teen e-cigarette use. In an effort to protect minors from e-cigarettes like Juul, the agency has plans to ban flavored options and develop therapies for youth cessation. These actions are part of the Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, first released in April 2018, as an expansion of the FDA’s Comprehensive Plan for Nicotine and Tobacco Regulation.
The FDA’s New Steps
With 1.5 million more students smoking e-cigarettes in 2018 than the previous year, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb considers youth e-cigarette use an epidemic. In his statement, Gottlieb noted that the incline of combustible cigarette use in teens is a result of the easy accessibility and youth-targeted marketing tactics of their electronic counterparts. The unsafe ingredients in e-cigarettes have the potential to stir up many health risks, especially for teens, and many are taking notice.
Since teens are often attracted to the flavored aspect of e-cigarettes, the sale of flavored pods has been closely under review and ultimately deemed dangerous enough to remove from the market. In the November press release, flavored cigars were also added to the list of products to be banned to keep youth safe and tobacco-free.
Although mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes are still on the market, as well as in combustible cigarette form, Gottlieb noted that many of the current regulations and requests may change if there is no progress in cutting back on teen usage. To aid in the effort, plans to develop and support therapy for teen tobacco cessation are also underway.
The Evolution of the Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan
Since the initial launch of the Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, the FDA prioritized enforcing age restrictions on the products, removing them from online retailers such as Ebay. They also released a series of videos as a prevention campaign, titled “The Real Cost,” which was implemented to educate youth on the risks of smoking cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
In September, a warning was issued to manufacturers such as Juul that required them to undergo a premarket review of their products. Manufacturers were given 60 days to respond with a plan of action to prevent e-cigarettes from getting in the hands of minors, most of which were expected to include secure age-verified online sales, elimination of flavored pods until reviewed by the FDA, and new marketing campaigns.
Nicotine plays a crucial role in the addictive properties of e-cigs and conventional cigarettes alike and, alongside their other dangerous ingredients, poses major threats to young people. In 2017, the FDA even started working on plans to reduce the nicotine levels in conventional cigarettes, which was part of their initial tobacco regulation framework.
The Future of the Teen E-Cigarette Crisis
This may not be the end of updates to come for the e-cigarette and tobacco market, as the FDA continues to monitor usage trends and determine next steps. There will be an FDA hearing on December 5 to discuss a plan of action moving forward and further strategies to develop drug therapies to help users quit vaping.