Posted on Sep 12, 2019, 1 p.m.
Health officials are calling for restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes to combat the outbreak of lung disease that has made hundreds of people sick and has lead to at least six deaths, according to Alex Azar, US Health and Human Services Secretary.
Currently the US FDA is finalizing guidance to remove all non-tobacco flavors of e-cigarettes from the American market within 30 days. However, companies may be able to reintroduce these flavored products at a later date as long as they submit a formal application and are granted approval from the FDA. It may take several weeks for the FDA to develop these guidelines, but it is being readied.
Producers of these vaping products have been criticized for creating flavors such as mango and creme that attract children who become hooked which helped to create a surge of underaged vaping that health officials have labeled as an epidemic. The underage surge is one of the reasons why health officials plan to ban flavored e-cigarette products, at least until they can thoroughly review the safety of these products.
“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities. We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth,” says Azar after a meeting with the President in a statement.
Only flavored products are being banned, tobacco flavored e-cigarette products will still remain on the market for adults who may be using them as a tool to quit smoking as the FDA still embraces e-cigarettes as a less harmful way for those who smoke to satisfy their nicotine addiction cravings than traditional cigarettes.
“If we find that children start surging into tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes or if we find marketing practices that target children and try to attract them into tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, we will engage in enforcement actions there also,” Azar told reporters.
The effort to ban these flavored e-cigarette products is gaining momentum as Michigan, San Francisco, and Boulder, Colorado have banned flavored e-cigarettes, as well as Michael Bloomberg has stepped up to help the battle and has pledged $160 million to assist in enacting similar restrictions around the nation.
E-cigarettes are a relatively new market that the FDA was supposed to review last summer until former Commissioner Gottlieb pushed the review off until 2022. This new outline moves the review of flavored vaping products to this year, and manufacturers must submit new applications in May 2020 per a federal court ruling issued in July 2019. It is worth noting that the FDA is also in the process of banning menthol cigarettes.
According to preliminary research from the CDC’s annual survey of teens more than one quarter of high school students have used e-cigarettes within the prior 30 days, the vast majority of whom report using fruit, menthol, or mint flavored vape products.
The underaged vaping epidemic is being blammed on one manufacturer in particular by US regulators. Juul produces sleek devices and enticing flavors such as mango, creme, and fruit, and its cartridges deliver as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes in just a single pod to deliver a very powerful punch.
Gottlieb was the one to label teen vaping as an epidemic almost a year ago, and the FDA moved to limit sales of fruity flavors to age restricted stores. Since then public health groups have urged officials to do more and take decisive action.
Naturally the American Vaping Association is criticizing the planned ban, claiming it will “remove life-changing options from the market,” according to Gregory Conley. But only flavored products are being banned not tobacco flavored products, making that claim incorrect.
Currently 6 people are reported to have died and over 450 cases of suspected vaping associated lung disease are being investigated by the CDC. Some are claiming it may be due to vitamin E oil that is added to some vaping products which was present in 8 cases. However, over 100 vaping samples were tested and they were negative for vitamin E acetate making the oily substance only one of many possible causes of the severe lung inflammation.
Whatever the cause may be there is a serious need to find out what is behind the outbreak. In the meantime vapers are advised to refrain from buying products off the street, not to make their own liquids, and avoid using flavored e-cigarette products for their own safety.
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