Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is calling for a major crack down from federal regulators on specific vapor companies that he deems are a danger to teens.
Speaking at a press conference in Connecticut Monday, Blumenthal demanded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration take oppressive action against vapor brands that manufacture flavors, which he suggests are purposefully marketed towards youth. Blumenthal is concerned about an increase in youth use of the devices while ignoring the impact vaping is having on smoking prevalence, reported WTNH.
A large amount of teens are experimenting with e-cigarettes, however, teen smoking is declining to historic lows. A recent study, by renowned tobacco researchers Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Greece and Dr. Riccardo Polosa of the University of Catania in Italy, found regular use of electronic cigarettes is “rare” among youths who do not smoke.
“I am calling on the FDA to stop kid friendly products like JUUL to be sold across Connecticut and the rest of the country,” Blumenthal said Monday.
Harm reduction advocates say restrictions aimed at flavors only serve to marginalize former smokers relying on a vape to satiate their nicotine cravings, potentially pushing them back to deadly combustible cigarettes, while doing nothing to address youth access. Flavored vaping products are key to helping smokers dissociate with the taste of tobacco and ultimately quit, vaping experts note.
Blumenthal appears to not only want to go after vapor flavors, but any company producing such products. Calling on the FDA to halt the sale of flavored products, specifically calling out JUUL, risks upending the vapor industry and hurting smokers who have successfully quit with e-cigarettes.
Blumenthal recently joined Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and nine other colleagues to send a letter to JUUL CEO Kevin Burns and the FDA that claims JUUL is “undermining our nation’s efforts to reduce tobacco use among youth.”
JUUL emerged as a powerhouse in the vapor market in 2017, and the device currently represent 54.6 percent of retail sales in the industry. A recent analysis by researchers at Citi, which used data from Nielsen, argues a sharp acceleration in sales for JUUL in the fourth quarter of 2017 is directly responsible for a six percent decline in U.S. cigarette volumes in the first quarter of 2018.
The vapor industry as a whole is credited for accelerating smoking quit-rates in both the U.S. and U.K. Attempts like Blumenthal’s to massively restrict vapor products through crushing regulation will ultimately serve to protect combustible cigarettes and undermine public health, harm reduction experts say.
The adult smoking rate in the U.S. fell from 15.8 percent in 2016 to 14.1 percent over the first nine months of 2017 — a significant decline many argue vapor products are accelerating. (RELATED: A Majority Of Adults Still Falsely Believe Nicotine Fuels Tobacco Cancer)
The quit rate of American smokers jumped from 4.5 percent between 2010 and 2011 to 5.6 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to a University of California study released July 26, 2017 — a statistically significant increase attributed to growing vaping popularity.
Despite the avalanche of evidence in the U.S. and around the world that proves vaping, while not entirely free of risks, drastically cuts combustible tobacco’s physical harms, lawmakers and the media continue to push misinformation about the devices.
Instead of alarmism over the alleged threats posed by vapor products, users should be taught about the relative risks of those products when compared to smoking.
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