FDA proposes ban on menthol cigarettes, restrictions on flavored e-cigs

Kenny Grant
November 17, 2018

From 2017 to 2018, there was a 78 per cent increase in current e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students.

E-cigarettes have been a divisive topic in the public health community.

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

The plan to sequester the sale of flavored e-cigarettes rather than banning them comes as a surprise for many as a study released Thursday suggests that the number of high school students who use e-cigarettes has risen 77 percent since previous year.

USA regulators Thursday ordered sharp restrictions on sales of e-cigarettes, as national data showed a 78 percent single-year surge in vaping among young people, with two-thirds using fruit and candy-flavored products.

Some called for a complete ban of flavorings, for example, and a more aggressive regulation of e-cigarettes that have come on the market in the last two years.

Sales of Juul make up more than 70 percent of the US e-cigarette market, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence analysis of data from market researcher IRI. On Nov. 9 and 10, following reports that the FDA would ban fruity e-cigarette flavors in most stores, Google searches for "how to get past Juul age verification" and similar questions surged 125 percent, according to SEMrush, an online data-analytics firm.

The agency has faced mounting pressure to act on e-cigarettes amid their surging popularity among US teenagers in recent years.

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The rapid rate of increase in vaping by teens has alarmed US health officials and prompted Gottlieb to reverse a more hands-off approach taken past year.

Teens have been enticed by the fruit and candy flavors as well as sleek and easy-to-conceal devices sold by companies like Juul Labs Inc. They could still be sold in vape shops or other businesses that do not admit minors.

Juul and tobacco giant Altria Group Inc had announced measures to pull flavored e-cigarette products from retail outlets, after the FDA threatened in September to ban Juul and other leading e-cigarette products unless their makers took steps to prevent use by minors.

But the same time we did that, we sought to regulate nicotine and the combustible products, traditional cigarettes to render them minimally or nonaddictive. He said it could still opt to take all e-cigarettes off the market if youth use doesn't abate.

Any move to ban menthol is expected to face fierce resistance from the tobacco industry.

"Products go on the market and we don't know if they are a benefit to public health, if they're a risk to young people, until they're already out there and they're already in every high school in America", Koval said. Menthol sales account for about 35 percent of the US cigarette market by volume, according to Bonnie Herzog, a Wells Fargo analyst.

"The proposed measure by the FDA is long overdue to protect the health of African Americans and to reduce the deleterious impact of menthol smoking and tobacco use overall on America's health", NAACP health program director Marjorie Innocent said in a statement.

Imperial, BAT and Altria said the ban on menthols or flavored cigars was not supported by science and evidence.

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