FDA says it had ‘constructive’ meetings with e-cigarette manufacturers on teen epidemic

Teenage visitors smoking electronic cigarettes at a vape trade fair. 

Sergei Konkov | TASS | Getty Images
Teenage visitors smoking electronic cigarettes at a vape trade fair. 

The Food and Drug Administration has had “constructive” meetings with e-cigarette manufacturers since instructing them to fix “epidemic” levels of teen nicotine use, Commissioner Scott Gottliebsaid Wednesday.

Tthe FDA last month ordered five manufacturers — Juul, British American Tobacco‘s Vuse, Altria‘s MarkTen, Imperial Brands‘ Blu E-cigs and Japan Tobacco‘s Logic — to submit plans within 60 days on reducing teen use. The five companies represent about 97 percent of the e-cigarette market, according to the FDA.

Preliminary federal data show the amount of high school students using e-cigarettes surged 77 percent this year, prompting the agency to take action.

Since then, Gottlieb said he has met with executives from each company and they presented “thoughtful” proposals on steps the companies and the agency can take to curb youth use.

“The companies acknowledged the role that flavored e-cigarette products play in appealing to kids, as well as the role that flavored e-cigarettes can also play in helping adult smokers quit,” he said in a statement.

Calling it a public health crisis, Gottlieb said the agency could restrict sales of fruity flavors to places with more vigorous age checks. He recently told CNBC the agency is considering confining sales to vape shops.

The FDA could also pull all products it deems as more appealing to kids until it can review and approve them. Products that were on the market before Aug. 8, 2016, were supposed to start undergoing review this year until Gottlieb extended the deadline to Aug. 8, 2022, so manufacturers would have more time to file complete applications.

Altria said last week it will pull its MarkTen pod-based products and will stop selling all flavors except for menthol or tobacco in its cig-a-like products until the FDA reviews and approves them. Other companies have not yet disclosed what, if any, voluntary actions they will pursue.

Altria also said it will support efforts to raise the federal age to buy tobacco products to 21 from the 18. Juul already backs this idea and requires its online shoppers to be 21. Gottlieb said Wednesday that some companies promised to endorse the initiative though he did not name which ones.

“For the e-cigarette industry, my message was simple: Step up'” Gottlieb said in the statement. “Even as the FDA builds a framework to mandate additional restrictions and actions to address these trends, we welcome voluntary steps by companies to address these concerns.”

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