Food and Drug Administration regulators are moving forward with a policy that would restrict the sale of most flavored e-cigarette products in convenience stores and online, outgoing Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced Wednesday.
The proposal is now open for public comment for 30 days, and is expected to tighten and eventually completely halt the sale of certain flavored e-cigarettes in stores that are accessible to teens and online, which the FDA says is contributing to a teen vaping “epidemic.”
“Evidence shows that youth are especially attracted to flavored e-cigarette products, and that minors are able to access these products from both brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as online, despite federal restrictions on sales to anyone under 18,” Gottlieb said in a statement. The new policy, he said, will put “all manufacturers and retailers on notice.”
Government data last year showed e-cigarette use rose 77% among high schoolers and nearly 50% among middle schoolers, and concluded that 3.5 million minors were vaping in early 2018.
The new guidelines, which were first proposed in November, will impact fruit-flavored e-cigarette cartridges, though the FDA considered limiting access to mint- and menthol-flavored products, as well. The agency later determined that mint and menthol flavors are less popular among minors, and often consumed by adults using e-cigarette products to quit smoking tobacco products.
Under the new proposed guidelines, flavored cartridges could still be available at stores that verify the age of customers or that have an age-restricted part of the store specifically for vape products.
Gottlieb said the FDA will continue efforts “aimed at enforcement and education” about the risks of e-cigarettes for youth. The agency expects to broadcast television advertisements about e-cigarettes starting this summer.
“I call on others who are committed to these same goals to also consider stepping up their efforts aimed at educating children of the risks of tobacco products generally, and e-cigarettes specifically,” Gottlieb said in a statement.