FDA must get it right with e-cigarettes

Give people something they like (but don’t need) and they’ll want more … and more.

We use that adage to describe the trend, i.e. the growing addiction taking place nationally with e-cigarettes.

As we reported recently, federal law precludes the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, yet the law is being broken.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottleib last week said more than 2 million middle school and high school students regularly use them.

Experts say e-cigarettes are effective in fighting smoking because they satisfy smokers’ nicotine addiction without delivering the carcinogenic compounds produced by burning tobacco.

These devices, however, do not eradicate nicotine addiction, thus creating the risk of nicotine addiction in teens.

That’s because the fluids used in e-cigarettes often contain higher amounts of nicotine than the amounts found in actual cigarettes.

Gottleib characterized underage “vaping” an epidemic.

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin recently reported that teen vaping has increased by 75 percent in the past year.

That comes after a government survey in June reported that teen vaping seemed to be holding steady last year. Some experts were cautious about the results, however.

The e-cigarette industry is largely unregulated.

Many brands offer a variety of sweet flavors, even though makers of traditional cigarettes are prohibited from doing that.

Under regulations developed by the Obama administration, manufacturers were supposed to submit most products for review by August 2018. But last year Gottlieb delayed the deadline until 2022, saying both the agency and industry needed more time to prepare.

The decision was criticized by anti-smoking advocates who say e-cigarette makers are targeting kids with candy flavors and marketing that portrays their products as flashy, hand-held gadgets.

Gottleib said the FDA is undertaking an aggressive enforcement effort to stop sales to minors.

“The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth and the resulting path to addiction must end,” Gottlieb told reporters.

The FDA also announced 1,300 warning letters and fines to online and traditional stores that have illegally sold Juul and other e-cigarettes to minors. Regulators said it was the largest coordinated crackdown in the agency’s history.

The agency is giving the country’s four major manufacturers of e-cigarettes and fluids used by minors 60 days to prove they can stop sales to minors.

If they do not, the FDA will prohibit the sale of the flavored fluids, including varieties like bubble gum, that attract young users.

The FDA also required manufacturers to stop the online sale of bulk quantities of the devices and liquids, to prevent them from being sold by “straw” purchasers.

Any device designed to help smokers avoid the life-threatening effects of smoking should not also have the impact of addicting children to nicotine.

The FDA must force changes for the sake of everyone’s health, especially minors.