E-Cig Makers have Sixty Days to Keep Products from Children
This month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent more than 1,000 warning letters to retailers and manufacturers of e-cigarettes regarding use of their products by teenagers. The agency is calling its plan of attack, the “largest coordinated enforcement effort in the FDA’s history.”
While the devices may help adult smokers become less addicted to cigarettes, they’re also attracting new users in the younger generation. In the letters, the FDA gives vape makers sixty days to prove they can keep their nicotine-infused products from minors. If the companies don’t succeed, the agency could choose to ban candy-like flavors, which it believes are particularly appealing to teens.
“Inevitably what we are going to have to contemplate are actions that may narrow the off-ramp for adults who see e-cigarettes as a viable alternative to combustible tobacco in order to close the on-ramp for kids,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “It’s an unfortunate trade-off.”
School administrators and policy enforcers have said they were completely caught off guard by how quickly vaping products took to the market and by their popularity among teenagers. The FDA is still reviewing documents it requested earlier this year from JUUL to determine whether the company was deliberately marketing its sweet flavors to a younger crowd.
Lawsuits have also popped up across the country. One was filed in a New York federal court in June by attorney Jason Solotaroff on behalf of a soon-to-be high school sophomore identified only as D.P. The 15-year-old attended a school where JUUL is commonplace. It was “on the school bus, in the bathrooms, outside of school and even in class,” according to court documents. Solotaroff said his client very quickly became addicted to vaping products using JUUL’s device.
“I think JUUL has been insincere from the very beginning in saying it’s only for adult smokers,” said Robert Jackler of Stanford University’s School of Medicine. He said JUUL has indicated they have “the most educated company, the most diligent, the most well-researched,” but added that the e-cig maker, as part of its deceptive marketing practices, logs the email addresses of everyone including minors who visit its site and will send ads to those underaged containing purchase incentives for starter kits.
JUUL has claimed amid litigation and the federal investigation it “heard the criticism” that teenagers might be attracted to the names of its flavorings, so it “responded by simplifying the names and losing the descriptors.” In this way, it has already made its products less appealing. James Monsees, one of the company’s co-founders, said selling JUULs to the nation’s youth was “antithetical to the company’s mission.”
But, it seems most lawmakers just aren’t buying it. “From our perspective, this is not about getting adults to stop smoking,” said he attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healey. “This is about getting kids to start vaping and make money and have them as customers for life.”
Any efforts made so far by JUUL and others to curtail teen use evidently hasn’t been enough. If e-cigarette makers can’t prove they have a plan to limit teen use, their current inventory could very well be further affected.