In case you missed it: FDA says ‘game over’ for e-cigs if teen vaping doesn’t stop

During a public hearing this past Friday, FDA Commissioner cranked up his threats to institute an industry-wide ban on vapor products unless teen vaping rates drop sharply in 2019.  The source of his ire seems to be primarily targeted at Juul whose products he claims are the most popular among American youth. 

If vapor companies do not stop selling to teens, Gottlieb says the entire category of e-cigarettes and vaping products could be removed from the market, even online commerce sites.  He further stated that all he needs to do is revise the already controversial FDA deeming regulations, and the ban could theoretically go into place without congressional oversight.

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During the event held in Silver Springs, Maryland, Gottlieb’s “existential threat” referenced internal data indicating that teen vaping rates are at an all-time high, rising nearly 80 percent in 2018 alone.  Approximately 1.5 million middle and high school students have taken up vaping since 2017, according to the same internal data.  The FDA Chief made the following statements.

“I’ll tell you this. If the youth use continues to rise, and we see significant increases in use in 2019, on top of the dramatic rise in 2018, the entire category will face an existential threat…It will be game over for these products until they can successfully traverse the regulatory process.”

He further stated that new kid-friendly drug therapies might need to be manufactured as a way to help youngsters battle their addiction to nicotine.  Current Big Pharma smoking cessation tools like the patch and nicotine gums and lozenges cannot be sold to minors either.   Gottlieb’s affinity for drug therapies for kids is also attracting attention.

"This progress is being undercut — even eclipsed — by the recent, dramatic rise in youth vaping…A few years ago, it would have been incredible to me that we’d be here, discussing the potential for drug therapy to help addicted youth vapers quit nicotine."

Prior to becoming head of the FDA, Dr. Gottlieb served on the boards of at least five major pharmaceutical companies.  Coincidently, many of these same five companies own the patents on nicotine gums, lozenges, and patches.

Juul Labs blasts back against FDA ‘existential threat’

In the waning days of 2018, The FDA announced the banning of sales of flavored vapor products through conventional brick-and-mortar retailers like convenience stores and gas stations.  At the time, Gottlieb was also openly considering a nationwide ban much like the one he is threatening now.

But just days before the FDA announcement, Juul Labs and Big Tobacco’s Altria Group agreed to pull flavored products from store shelves voluntarily.  Juul also decreased their social media presence by announcing that they would no longer respond to customer comments and private messages on Facebook and Instagram.  Juul also implements an over-21 policy, but all of these “voluntary” actions may have been too little too late.

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Gottlieb’s disgust towards Juul may have been only temporarily squelched.  It probably didn’t help much that just weeks later, Altria announced that it would be investing in Juul Labs as a 35 percent shareholder.  When news broke of Gottlieb’s most recent public threats from Friday’s presser, Juul spokesperson Ted Kwong issued the following rebuttal to The Hill

“Underage use of JUUL and any other vaping products is completely unacceptable to us and is directly opposed to our mission of eliminating cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes…We are moving full steam ahead on implementing our action plan to limit youth usage, and this is unchanged since we announced our plan in November," he added. "We will be a transparent, engaged, and committed partner with FDA, state Attorneys General, local municipalities, and community organizations in the effort to combat underage use.” 

Gottlieb’s anti-vaping rhetoric may be annoying to advocates of vapor products and Juulers in particular, but his harsh threats are gaining traction outside of the vaping community.  Anti-tobacco organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Lung Association want Gottlieb to push even harder. 

Related Article:  FDA Chief delivers cryptic warning to vaping to ‘step up and step up soon’

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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