Friday, April 27, 2018

FDA cracks down on sale of e-cigarettes to youth, sends 40 warning letters about Juul devices that look like big flash drives

Smoke-shop manager Cathleen McCarthy demonstrates the
Juul device. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter, The Boston Globe)
"The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced a nationwide undercover 'blitz' to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes — particularly the hugely popular Juul products — to children and teenagers by regular and online retailers," reports Laurie McGinley of The Washington Post.

The crackdown will continue through April. So far it has found dozens of violations of the laws and has issued 40 warning letter related to Juul sales. Juul (branded JUUL) is a highly popular vaping device that packs a powerful nicotine punch, with dozens of flavors like mango and creme brulee that attract teenagers.

Because the device is small and looks like a USB drive, teens find it easy to hide them from parents and teachers. Other vaping devices like myblu and KandyPens are similar. And because teen smoking rates have dropped dramatically in the past 20 years, vaping makes up the lion's share of adolescent nicotine use. In 2015, the national rate for high-school e-cig use was 24.1 percent, compared to 10.8 percent for cigarettes.

At 23.4 percent, Kentucky high school e-cig use was similar to the national average in 2015, but the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed a drop in the student's e-cig rate to 14.1 percent. The 2017 national numbers haven't been released. About the same number of Kentucky teens smoke cigarettes -- 14.3 percent -- as e-cigs, down from 47 percent in 1997.

About 45 percent of Kentucky's high-school students said said they had ever used an electronic vapor product, compared to about 41 percent who had ever tried smoking cigarettes.

And although many consider vaping safer than smoking traditional cigarettes, the vapor contains other dangerous chemicals.

 "The announcement about the crackdown came a week after health organizations and lawmakers urged the FDA to be more aggressive in discouraging e-cigarette use among minors, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Truth Initiative, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and American Lung Association sent a letter to [FDA Commissioner Scott] Gottlieb warning that progress against smoking is 'at serious risk of being reversed' because of the agency's failure to take action against products that appeal to youth," McGinley reports.

Juul Labs said in a statement that selling its products to minors was "unacceptable" and it already has programs in place to prevent and act on violators, but promised to announce extra measures soon.

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