U.S. threatens ban to fight teenage vaping epidemic

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Former smokers who vape may return to traditional cigarettes if flavored e-cigarettes are no longer available.

According to the FDA, e-cigarettes have become the most common tobacco product used by teens in the past two years.

As regulators threatened to pull e-cigarettes from shelves if they do not address "widespread" teen use, shares of Altria Group Inc. Gottlieb is talking about reneging on the FDA's four-year extension of the deadline for seeking regulatory approval to continue selling e-cigarettes, which would wreak havoc with a market that he concedes has great potential for reducing smoking-related disease and death. In a statement, they called for support for their bipartisan legislation, introduced in July, which would ban flavored cigars and place stringent controls on e-juice flavorings.

Five of the biggest e-cigarette manufacturers - JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen, blu e-cigs, and Logic - must also report to the agency within 60 days with plans to address the concerns, or face penalties, it said.

"Given the alarming spike in e-cigarette use among Minnesota youth, we need a full-court press to prevent another generation from getting hooked on nicotine", said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm in the release.

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Meanwhile, tobacco and cigarette industry leaders have doubled down on innovation to meet the demands of a more health-conscious and informed consumer.

What's more, e-cigarette liquids like Juul pods contain high concentrations of nicotine. Imperial Brands, which recently removed "Tobacco" from its name, is now offering alternative caffeinated products.

The agency sent letters to Juul, along with other popular e-cigarette brands-as well as to over 1,100 retailers-demanding that they prove that e-cigaretts will stop being sold to the young folks.

Those broader recommendations would constrain the ability of e-cigarette companies to reach adult smokers and make ENDS less appealing to them. It was "the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the FDA's history", according to the agency.

"While we remain committed to advancing policies that promote the potential of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes, that work can't come at the expense of kids", Gottlieb said.

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"I certainly am in possession of evidence that warrants that", Gottlieb said, without disclosing the evidence.

The FDA is also targeting retailers who have sold e-cigarettes to minors. More generally, the FDA wants Juul and the other companies to contemplate "the particular youth appeal of their products", which involves features, such as style and convenience, that adults also happen to like. If underage consumption does not justify a ban on tobacco cigarettes (and I don't think it does), it can not possibly justify a ban on competing products that are much safer. "Juuling", along with "vaping", has become a common term for e-cigarette use by teenagers on social media and at USA high schools.

Traders said proposed FDA action was less harsh than feared. Appropriate flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch. Earlier this year, as criticism of the company mounted, it committed $30 million over the next three years for independent research, youth and parent education and community engagement.

The FDA is in the process of rolling out a sweeping anti-smoking initiative created to make it easier for smokers to quit by cutting the nicotine levels in regular cigarettes.

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