The Food and Drug Administration is aiming to deal two major blows against the tobacco industry. The efforts center on their aim to curb tobacco use among teens.
First, the FDA plans to strictly limit the sales of flavored e-cigarettes to youths. Reports surfaced last week that the FDA would look into banning fruit and mint flavors of e-cigarette cartridges from convenience stores and gas stations. However, the true intentions of the FDA go even further than that.
The FDA’s commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottleib said that he would do everything in the agency’s power to prevent in-person sales of flavored e-cigarettes in any location that allowed the entry of people of all ages. Gottleib is also pushing to restrict online sales.
The other prong puts menthol flavoring in the FDA’s scope. Gottleib said that the agency is beginning the process to ban menthol and mint in all traditional cigarettes and also ban flavors in cigars.
Gottleib acknowledged that the menthol efforts would be a longer-term battle with the tobacco industry fighting back at every step.
Both of the FDA’s attacks on the tobacco industry are backed by some pretty shocking statistics.
“From 2017 to 2018, there was a 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students,” Gottleib said. Shocking numbers to anyone who isn’t currently in high school and witnessing the groups of kids “Juuling” in the bathrooms.
As far as menthol goes the numbers aren’t much prettier. “More than half (54 percent) of youth smokers ages 12-17 use menthol cigarettes, compared to less than one-third of smokers ages 35 and older,” said Gottleib. That data shows the FDA that menthol, whether intentionally marketed at youth or not, draws in underage smokers.
According to some studies, most smokers begin using tobacco before the age of 21. This means that preventing teen smoking could have a real generational impact when it comes to healthcare costs.
It’s no surprise that anti-smoking groups are praising the FDA for the new attacks, but they also criticize the FDA for not working fast enough. The vaping trend has been on a steady rise for years and they say that the FDA has done little to prevent its popularity amongst youths.