FDA says it will start process to ban menthol cigarettes

Cornelia Mascio
Novembre 16, 2018

After much speculation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving closer to removing flavored vapor products from convenience stores.

The plan to sequester the sale of flavored e-cigarettes rather than banning them comes as a surprise for many as a study released Thursday suggests that the number of high school students who use e-cigarettes has risen 77 percent since a year ago. The proposed menthol ban will be the most aggressive action the agency has taken against the tobacco industry in more than a decade as it looks to further push down USA smoking rates, which have been falling for decades. "We won't let this pool of kids, a pool of future potential smokers, of future disease and death, to continue to build".

This breaking news story will be updated.

The agency has faced mounting pressure to act on e-cigarettes amid their surging popularity among US teenagers in recent years. We're seeing a generation of kids become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes.

The reason mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes are not included is they are more popular with adults who may be using them to decrease or stop their use of traditional cigarettes. But many versions contain potentially addictive nicotine, and health officials believe they set kids who try them on a path toward regular cigarettes. We did extend the compliance dates on the e-cigarettes when I initially came aboard, again, to try to give them time to come in with applications to the agency, to try to demonstrate what they need to demonstrate to remain on the market, because we do - we do recognize that there may be an opportunity for adults using these products. Vapes in flavors such as fruit and candy, which the FDA says are particularly appealing to youth users, will now only be sold through online and in-person vendors with age restriction practices in place, such as tobacco and vape shops, retailers with specified age-restricted areas or stores where vapes are kept out of view of and inaccessible to minors at all times.

That action, according to the statement, starts with severely limiting the sale of e-cigarettes in all flavors except mint, menthol and tobacco; unflavored e-cigarettes are also unaffected by the policy. Recent research shows that kids and teens may be more likely to smoke cigarettes and use other tobacco products if they pick up vaping. The expectation was based on the FDA's move to ban flavored cigarettes in 2009 - one of its first tobacco regulations handed down after Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

Smoking has been declining for more than five decades.

Menthol cigarettes represent more than 30 percent of USA cigarette volumes and approximately 55 percent of British American Tobacco Plc's US volumes, through its Newport brand, according to a research note from AllianceBernstein earlier this week. In other words, 5.8 percent of high school students, about 845,000 teenagers, could be considered frequent vapers, up from 2.3 percent (346,000) previous year.

Cigarette smoking was more common than vaping among high school students until 2014. But some say adult smokers switching to e-cigarettes have also helped in recent years. The previous year, 12.7 percent of high school students reported past-month cigarette smoking in the NYTS, almost three times the share who reported vaping.

But e-cigarette use jumped 78 percent this year in high school kids and 48 percent among middle school kids, Gottlieb said, citing new survey data. One of the most popular devices, made by San Francisco-based Juul Labs Inc, has become a phenomenon at USA high schools, where "Juuling" has become synonymous with vaping.

The e-cigarette ban comes just two days after Juul, the market's leading e-cigarette company and a favorite brand among teenagers, announced that it would voluntarily stop selling most flavored products in retail stores and add additional age-restriction measures online to prevent people under 21 from buying its products.

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