The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is planning to ban in-store sales of many flavored e-cigarettes to keep them out of the hands of teenagers who are using the devices in “epidemic” proportions.
The FDA will announce specifics of the new rules next week, said a senior agency official according to The Washington Post. The plan will restrict convenience stores and other retail locations’ ability to sell flavored e-cigarettes except menthol and mint flavors, the same official said according to WaPo.
“In order to close the on-ramp to e-cigarettes for kids, we have to put in place some speed bumps for adults,” FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said before news of the plan according to WaPo.
E-cigarette makers argue that their products are not made to appeal to teens but to help adult smokers transition away from traditional cigarettes. However, Gottlieb declared teen vaping an “epidemic” in September, reported NBC News. Critics of e-cigarettes claim teens start vaping mainly because of the variety of flavors like creme brulee, mango and even mimosa.
“I think that there’s a perception that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative for kids,” Gottlieb said before news of the plan according to WaPo, “but it can lead to a lifelong addiction, and some percentage will migrate to combustible products.” (RELATED: $229 Billion California Teacher Retirement Program Cites ‘Human Rights’ Violations When Divesting From Private Prisons)
The plan could affect giant tobacco company Juul, which has more than two-thirds of the U.S. e-cig market, as well as other tobacco companies including RJR, Imperial and Altria, reported WaPo.
A 60-day period put in place by Gottlieb for those four companies to provide evidence they could keep their products out of the hands of teens expires this weekend, according to WaPo.
The FDA also anticipates mandating age-verification measures for individuals trying to buy e-cigarette flavor pods as well, reported WaPo. Even raising the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 is on the table, reported WaPo.
The FDA even seized documents from Juul’s San Francisco headquarters to look for evidence the company markets to teens on Sept. 29, reported CBS News.
Juul has a valuation of roughly $15 billion and was planning expanding into the international market in July.
High-profile politicians including House Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin have criticized companies like Juul because their products often end up in the hands of teens.
“The craze among kids for e-cig flavors that resemble whipped cream, candy and cookies is not only a bad trend, it is a recipe for disaster that is fueling an outright addiction that appears to be getting worse, not better,” Schumer said May 5.
The FDA fines some retailers that sell e-cigarette products and accessories to minors, according to WaPo. The FDA even launched a “blitz” against 40 retailers to crack down on illicit sales in April.
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