Feds take action against retailers in e-cigarette 'epidemic'

The Food and Drug Administration is threatening to pull flavored electronic cigarettes off the market if the tobacco industry doesn’t do more to combat growing use of the products by children and teens

U.S. regulators said Wednesday they are considering an immediate ban on flavored e-cigarettes, as the Food and Drug Administration chief warned of an "epidemic" of vaping among youths.

In a statement, Juul Labs said "appropriate flavors" play a role in adults changing their smoking habits, but said it would work with the FDA: "We are committed to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people". The agency may also ban sales of some flavored e-cigarette products, which Gottlieb says are particularly appealing to underage users, and consider shortening a grace period that now gives e-cigarette companies until 2022 to apply for FDA approval.

The FDA told five major e-cigarette manufacturers on Wednesday to come up with ways to address youth use in 60 days or the agency could require them to stop selling flavored products that appeal to children. So we don't want to - we don't want to extinguish this opportunity entirely, because we do see some potential benefit from having these products on the market as a way for adult smokers to get access to nicotine, without all the harmful effects of combusting tobacco.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a nicotine liquid into a vapor that can be inhaled.

"The FDA should immediately move to regulate flavored e-cigarettes, instead of waiting until 2022, as it is now planning to do", Bloomberg said in a statement.

Supermarket, drug and mass retail and fuel locations cited in the FDA action - primarily with warnings - included Coborn's, Dillons, Dollar General, Food Lion, Fred Meyer, Fred's, Fry's, H-E-B, Hannaford, Harps, Hy-Vee, Jewel-Osco, Kroger, Meijer, Publix, Rite Aid, Safeway, Smith's, Walgreens and Walmart.

"I certainly am in possession of evidence that warrants that", Gottlieb said.

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"I have grown increasingly concerned around what we see as rising youth use in these products, and I'm disappointed in the actions the companies have taken to try to address this", Gottlieb said at a press briefing.

It will also "re-visit" the policy it announced a year ago, which gave e-cigarette companies more time to apply for regulatory approval. Lisa Murkowski also asked the FDA to end delays. Despite the constant warnings that increased experimentation with e-cigarettes would lead to more smoking, consumption of conventional cigarettes by teenagers stubbornly continues to decline, reaching a record low previous year in the Monitoring the Future Study, which began in 1975.

At that time, Gottlieb said, the agency didn't foresee the "epidemic'"of adolescent use that has become one of the plan's biggest challenges". "Hindsight, and the data that's now available to us, fully reveal these trends".

But the other action we would take immediately is look at removing these flavored products in the market.

And some of the retailers that received warning letters are still advertising and selling these products, he said.

The action is part of the FDA's Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan announced in April.

The agency is now demanding plans to reign in youth-targeted marketing campaigns and control illegal sales of their products to minors from Juul and four other e-cigarette makers within 60 days.

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