The Food and Drug Administration is planning to limit the sale of sweet electronic cigarette flavors in an attempt to curtail what its commissioner has called an “epidemic” of teen vaping, according to an agency official.
The FDA will ban convenience store and gas station sales of flavors other than tobacco, mint and menthol next week, the official said. Stricter age-verification requirements are also planned for online sales of e-cigarettes.
The overwhelming majority of e-cigarette sales are through brick-and-mortar retail outlets, so the FDA’s move would have a huge negative effect on business. It also is likely to draw legal action.
Lyle Beckwith, a lobbyist with the National Association of Convenience Stores, said the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act “expressly forbids” the FDA from discriminating against any “channel of trade.”
He predicted a lawsuit seeking to block the FDA restrictions. He said the very definition of what differentiates a vape store from a convenience store could be difficult to determine.
Juul, the most popular brand with teens, would be hit particularly hard by the planned FDA restrictions. The company declined to comment.
New federal data out Thursday showed the percentage of people who smoke cigarettes in the United States fell to 14 percent in 2017, the lowest level since records have been kept.
Gottlieb and other public health officials are trying to strike a balance between the use of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers quit combustible tobacco and not hooking a new generation on nicotine through e-cigarettes.
Liz Mair, a spokeswoman for Vapers United, called the plan an “ill-conceived and exceptionally dangerous move.”
The group is funded by vape store owners and vapers, but does not accept tobacco company funding, she says.
“Spoiler alert: The overwhelming majority of these smokers looking to quit will keep on smoking, with all the attendant, massively negative health consequences, including death,” Mair said.
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