Trump administration officials on Friday warned e-cigarette companies that some of their products may be illegal and could be removed from the market.
The Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to 21 manufacturers and importers, asking the companies to show they have not violated an exemption that allows vaping products to continue being sold while the agency figures out how best to regulate them.
The letters represent another step in the continued efforts of health officials to crack down on underage e-cigarette use.
But as vaping among teenagers has skyrocketed, Gottlieb has clamped down. He recently launched a major push to stop e-cigarette sales to minors, accusing manufacturers and retailers of contributing to an “epidemic” of use among kids and teenagers.
Gottlieb has also said he is considering a possible ban on flavored e-liquids if five of the largest manufacturers can’t come up with adequate steps on their own to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of those under the age of 18.
“The FDA remains committed to the potential opportunity for e-cigarettes to help adult smokers transition away from combustible cigarettes. But we cannot allow that opportunity to come at the expense of addicting a whole new generation of kids to nicotine,” Gottlieb said in a statement Friday.
“We’ll take forceful steps to stem the youth use, even if our actions have the unwelcome effect of impeding some opportunities for adults,” he added.
The FDA began regulating e-cigarettes in 2016. The agency’s exemption lets the devices remain on the market until 2022, so long as the companies don’t introduce any new features or flavors.
FDA said it’s received complaints that some companies may be ignoring this, and the letters specifically targeted those companies.
“Given the explosive growth of e-cigarette use by kids, we’re committed to taking whatever measures are appropriate to stem these troubling use trends. We’re going to address issues related to the access kids have to e-cigarettes, as well as the youth appeal of these products,” Gottlieb said.
Juul Labs was not sent a warning letter, as the company was separately subject to a recent unannounced inspection of its corporate headquarters, which sought similar information about its marketing practices.
Sales of Juul’s e-cigarette account for nearly 1 in every 3 purchases nationwide.