(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday released formal plans to curb the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and slow a surge in teenage use of the popular nicotine devices.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who has called teenage use an “epidemic,” issued the draft guidelines during his final weeks as head of the agency, after a surprise resignation announcement last week.
The proposal would allow traditional retailers such as convenience stores to sell tobacco, mint and menthol e-cigarettes, which the FDA says are more popular among adults than minors. But other flavors could only be sold in stores or online when strong age-verification protocols are in place.
In an interview on Wednesday, Gottlieb said the new guidelines give the agency flexibility to further restrict sales if youth use trends continue.
The agency is paying close attention to “pod-based” e-cigarettes such as the ones popularized by Juul Labs Inc, he said. Those devices use pre-filled, flavored nicotine cartridges and have been especially popular among U.S. high school students.
“The FDA did this in a fashion that’s going to allow us to put in place additional restrictions if the youth rates continue to grow,” Gottlieb said. “It allows us to very quickly adjust our policy further.”
Under the proposal, makers of e-cigarette products would have to submit a formal application to the FDA by August 2021 in order to keep selling them, a year earlier than previously proposed.
Shares of tobacco companies Altria Group Inc and Philip Morris International Inc, which have been pressured by recent news of rising regulatory scrutiny into e-cigarettes, initially fell on the news before edging higher.
Gottlieb had said in November that the agency planned more restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes.
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