E-cigarette use among USA youth becomes an ‘epidemic’

To match Special Report VAPING-REGULATION  JUUL REUTERS  Ronen Zvulun

E-cigarettes expose users to significantly lower levels of potentially toxic substances than traditional cigarettes, except for nicotine, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said earlier this year.

The FDA chief vowed to take all necessary actions to stop these trends from continuing.

Industry insiders expected the 2016 rule to place restrictions on flavored tobacco products.

Under the proposed rules, retailers selling flavored e-cigarettes would have to display them in a section of the store that's off-limits to anyone under the age of 18. "Or a situation where those who now use menthol-flavored cigarettes might find it less attractive to switch completely to an e-cigarette", he said.

The battery-powered devices heat a nicotine liquid that users inhale, and are gaining popularity in the United States and overseas, particularly among young people, which Gottlieb has previously described as an "epidemic".

The restrictions are aimed mainly at reducing smoking in kids: About half of teens who smoke cigarettes choose menthols, and flavored e-cigarettes have been blamed for a recent increase in teen vaping rates.

After much speculation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving closer to removing flavored vapor products from convenience stores. To date, 3.6 million students are now vaping.

The primary concern most experts have about youth e-cigarette use is that most of these products contain nicotine, which is addictive, says Jonathan Klein, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of pediatrics at the University of IL at Chicago. He said menthol e-cigarettes may be an option for adults who turn to vaping products to quit regular cigarettes and he decided not to push for an end to menthol flavoring in vaping products.

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Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, cautioned that restricting access to flavored products could imperil that possibility.

Imperial Brands Plc, which sells Blu e-cigarettes, said it recognizes the FDA's concern about age verification and is considering taking additional measures.

So there is a potential public health opportunity here. He said it could still opt to take all e-cigarettes off the market if youth use doesn't abate.

The regulator also plans to draw up bans on menthol-flavored cigarettes and flavored cigars.

The agency "intends to propose a product standard that would ban flavors in all cigars" and "will advance a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would seek to ban menthol in combustible tobacco products, including cigarettes and cigars", the statement says.

The changes are open to a public comment period lasting until June before they can take effect. Juul pointed out in a statement that it released a plan Tuesday to stop selling fruit-flavored nicotine pods to retail stores and shut down its USA -based Facebook and Instagram accounts. The company also shut down its U.S. Facebook and Instagram accounts, which some have accused of marketing its products directly to young people.

In a statement released Tuesday, Juul CEO Kevin Burns said, "Our intent was never to have youth use Juul". "But intent is not enough, the numbers are what matter, and the numbers tell us underage use of e-cigarette products is a problem".

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