Story at a glance
- On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration announced it was banning all e-cigarette products put forth by Juul, the largest American electronic cigarette company.
- Electronic cigarettes have become wildly popular among younger Americans, with an estimated 4 million high schoolers using tobacco products in 2018.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found nicotine can harm a developing adolescent brain, especially areas that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday it would ban the sale of all Juul e-cigarette products in the U.S., the largest American electronic cigarette company. The decision marks one of the most significant actions the agency has taken to date in regulating the tobacco industry.
E-cigarettes may not look like a traditional combustible cigarette — with little to no smell and available in a variety of flavors — but the slim electronic nicotine pen still carries serious health risks, including an increased chance of cancer.
In its decision, the agency said Juul did not prove that keeping its products on the market “would be appropriate for the protection of public health.”
Electronic cigarettes were introduced in the U.S. in the early 2000s and included a diverse group of devices that let users inhale an aerosol, which usually contained nicotine and other additives and flavors. The devices became known as e-cigarettes and vape pens, due to their pen-style shape.
The smoking devices have become wildly popular among America’s youth, as they were perceived to be less harmful than other tobacco products. They also came in a variety of attractive flavors, like mint, fruit, chocolate, candy and other desserts.
Americans also have a plethora of options to choose from, with multiple e-cigarette brands operating in the U.S., including blu, Logic, MarkTen, NJOY, Vuse and more.
In 2018, an estimated 4 million high school students and 840,00 middle school students were current tobacco product users.
Those trends have alarmed health officials, who have warned that e-cigarettes can contain harmful substances including nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm brain development.
Here’s what you may not have known about e-cigarettes:
E-cigarettes aren’t safer than traditional, combustible cigarettes
Though they have been marketed as safer and less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine as well as other additives and flavors that can be harmful to lungs in the long term. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says some e-cigarette flavorings might be safe to consume but shouldn’t be inhaled because the body’s gut is able to process more substances than the lungs.
E-cigarettes can be disproportionately harmful to young Americans
Though scientists are still understanding the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, the CDC has found nicotine can harm a developing adolescent brain—especially areas that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control. Using nicotine in adolescence can also increase the risk for future addiction to other drugs.
E-cigarette companies have engaged in deceptive marketing
In 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter to Juul Labs Inc. for marketing unauthorized modified tobacco products by labeling, advertising and other activities that were directed to consumers—including a presentation at a school. A Juul representative spoke with students and said, “FDA was about to come out and say it [Juul] was 99 percent safter than cigarettes.”
The agency found that Juul “adulterated its products” by selling or distributing them as modified risk tobacco products without the agency’s approval.
E-cigarettes can produce harmful secondhand smoke
Research has found that secondhand nicotine vape exposure was associated with increased risk of bronchitic symptoms and shortness of breath among young adults. The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation says aerosol from electronic smoking devices carry a higher particle concentration than conventional tobacco cigarette smoke—which can exacerbate asthma and constrict arteries that could trigger a heart attack.