E-cigarette companies that the FDA has already threatened for appealing to teens may land in more hot water with new campaigns that target older adults, say public health advocates and House Democrats.
After the FDA told them to stop pitching in a way that attracted teens, Juul and other companies have begun flooding television, radio and print media with ads that tout their potential to help adults quit traditional cigarettes. But they don’t have the data to back up such claims, say researchers, and the new ads might confuse teens even more.
With FDA and congressional threats looming, public health advocates say manufacturers are overselling their potential in an effort to preserve a market for their products.
First they created an epidemic of use by youth, said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and now they’ve “swung the pendulum all the way to the point that they are making unapproved health claims.”
Few argue that vaping is as dangerous as traditional smoking — e-cigarettes were ostensibly invented to move smokers off more dangerous products, notes Thomas Houston, a longtime tobacco control advisor and fellow at the American Academy of Family Physicians. But most vaping manufacturers arrived on the scene with fruity flavors and flashy ads that attracted teens, driving a social media phenomenon and a new verb—to “Juul.”
That led the FDA to seize documents during a surprise inspection of Juul’s offices last year and threaten broader flavor bans and retail restrictions to curb teen use. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said increasing teen use could lead to a ban on some of the products.
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