Outgoing FDA chief issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs

Outgoing FDA chief issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs

Outgoing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Scott Gottlieb moved to restrict sales of some flavored e-cigarettes Wednesday as part of the agency's efforts to combat teen vaping. 

The proposed guidance would limit the sales of flavored e-cigarettes to vape shops that ban sales to minors, stores that have separate off-limits areas for adults and require heightened age verification for online sales.

That would essentially end sales of e-cigarettes at gas stations and convenience stores. 

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"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 FDA said the changes, which it hopes to finalize quickly, likely mean that some flavored e-cigarette products will no longer be sold. 

While the proposal doesn't apply to menthol, mint and tobacco flavors, that could change if the FDA finds kids are using those flavors.

Companies that violate the policies could have their products pulled from the market, Gottlieb warned. 

E-cigarette manufacturers also must seek agency approval by 2021 to continue selling their products on the market. 

Gottlieb, who will leave the FDA next month, has made what he calls the "epidemic" of youth vaping a major cornerstone of his tenure. 

He blames e-cigarette companies for the epidemic for selling "kid-friendly" flavors, such as bubble gum and mango. 

FDA data show that 3.6 million middle school and high school students are current e-cigarette users, and that children who vape are also more likely to start smoking cigarettes. 

But anti-tobacco advocates say the proposal unveiled Wednesday doesn't go far enough. 

"A public health crisis of this magnitude demands faster and more forceful action than the steps announced by the FDA," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The proposal would also ban the sales of flavored cigars that were put on the market after 2016. The companies would have to seek approval from the FDA to reintroduce their products to the market. 

But Myers noted that the FDA has still not proposed rules to ban all flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes as Gottlieb promised to do in November. 

"We are at a critical juncture in the nation’s fight against tobacco, with the youth e-cigarette epidemic threatening the enormous progress we have made," Myers said. "The FDA must do more to reverse this epidemic and also move forward with its bold proposals to further drive down smoking, including banning flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes."