FDA working 'as quickly as possible' on e-cigarette flavor ban

FDA working 'as quickly as possible' on e-cigarette flavor ban
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A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official said Friday the agency is working "as quickly as possible" to finalize guidance that would remove flavored e-cigarette products from the market.

"This is a very, very high priority, and we're trying to complete work on it as quickly as possible," Mitch Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products for the FDA, said on a call with reporters.

The Trump administration announced last month it would soon issue guidance banning all nontobacco flavors from the market in an effort to address increased vaping rates among teenagers.

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The announcement was met with fierce opposition from the vaping industry and conservatives, who argue that removing flavors would hurt small businesses and adults who use the products to quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said last month the ban would include mint and menthol flavors, but the administration is now considering exempting those products, Bloomberg News reported Friday.

Zeller declined to comment on whether the FDA is considering an exemption for those flavors, saying only that deliberations are "ongoing."

The expected ban comes as the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigate cases of vaping-related illnesses, some of which have been tied to illicit THC products.

Since the outbreak began earlier this year, there have been 1,604 confirmed and probable lung injury cases, according to the CDC.

Zeller said it is important that high youth vaping rates not be conflated with vaping illnesses.

"We need to be careful not to conflate the two issues — what has been going on for a number of years with increased use of e-cigarettes and especially flavored e-cigarettes by kids ... with the more recent development of pulmonary illness that seems to mostly involve the use of illicit products."