Health

Teen vaping being called 'epidemic' by health officials

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Teens across the country are using e-cigarettes, and U.S. health officials are worried.

The Food and Drug Administration is warning e-cigarette companies and the public about the “epidemic of addiction” occurring in minors, that appears to be driven by flavored products, the AP reports.

The FDA cited recent data showing there is a rise in the underage use of e-cigarette devices such as Juul, Vuse and more.

Just last year, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said e-cigarettes could be helpful to ween adult smokers off cigarettes, due to the varying levels of nicotine available in products.

Gottlieb went on to say that he did not predict the now visible epidemic in underage smokers.

“The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth and the resulting path to addiction must end,” Gottlieb said. The FDA will now look into ways they can curb the use of e-cigarettes in teens.

From the AP:

E-cigarettes are vapor-emitting devices that have grown into a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. despite little research on their long-term effects, including whether they are helpful in helping smokers quit. They’re generally considered a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes. But health officials have warned nicotine in e-cigarettes is harmful to developing brains.

They typically contain nicotine, and sometimes flavorings like fruit, mint or chocolate.

Health advocates have worried about the popularity of vaping products among kids and the potential impact on smoking rates in the future. A government-commissioned report in January found “substantial evidence” that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try cigarettes.

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.

Under Wednesday’s announcement, the five largest e-cigarette manufacturers will have 60 days to produce plans to stop underage use of their products. The companies sell Vuse, Blu, Juul, MarkTen XL, and Logic e-cigarette brands, which account for 97 percent of U.S. e-cigarette sales, according to FDA.

If the plans fall short, the FDA could block sales of the products by enforcing a requirement that companies provide detailed design and health data about their products before marketing them. The FDA’s delay on that requirement has allowed the industry to flourish with little oversight. But it’s not clear how quickly the decision could be reversed.

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 FDA is in the process of rolling out a sweeping anti-smoking initiative designed to make it easier for smokers to quit by cutting the nicotine levels in regular cigarettes. As part of that plan, Gottlieb has suggested some smokers could be directed toward alternative products that deliver nicotine without the carcinogens of cigarettes. Those products could include e-cigarettes, though the FDA has not given any company permission to advertise its device as a quit-smoking aid.

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