The Trump administration will ban flavored e-cigarettes. It comes in response to a surge in youth vaping and health concerns following a handful of mysterious deaths and hundreds of lung illnesses linked to the product.
The US federal government plans to ban flavored e-cigarettes amid rising concern over youth vaping and lung illness and deaths linked to the products, President Donald Trump said Wednesday.
The president and top US officials expressed concern that flavored vaping products ranging from mint to mango were drawing millions of youth into nicotine addiction.
"We have a problem in our country, it's a new problem ... and it's called vaping, especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children," Trump said in the Oval Office. "There have been deaths and there have been a lot of other problems."
FDA approval required
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar made the announcement at the White House alongside acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Ned Sharpless, the president and First Lady Melania Trump.
Azar said the FDA would create guidelines over the next couple of weeks to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from the market.
"We simply have to remove these attractive flavored products from the marketplace until they can secure FDA approval, if they can," Azar said, adding that tobacco flavored products would remain on the market for adult consumers.
But he said that if children use tobacco flavored products, "we will take enforcement action there also."
Flavored products may apply for FDA approval, but they would only be granted clearance if they prove to show a net benefit to public health, he said.
New generation of vaping addicts
The announcement comes after parents, health officials and politicians have called for federal action to stem a surge in vaping.
Preliminary federal health data for 2019 shows a quarter of high school students had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. The vast majority of underage teens consumed fruit, menthol or mint flavors.
E-cigarette advocates argue vaping is safer than cigarettes and can help users stop smoking, but there is little evidence nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are effective in dropping the habit.
Critics say companies such as Juul have marketed their products to youths and created a new generation of addicts to feed a multi-billion dollar market.
"It has taken far too long to stop Juul and other e-cigarettes companies from targeting our nation's kids with sweet-flavored, nicotine-loaded products," said Matthew Myers, of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a statement.
Growing questions over safety
Most health experts agree that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking tobacco products that contain thousands of chemicals and lead to the death of nearly a half-million people a year in the United States.
However, there is scant research on the long-term effects of vaping.
The administration's announcement comes as e-cigarettes and other vaping devices have been linked to six deaths and nearly 450 cases of possible vaping-related lung illness.
The exact cause of the deaths and illnesses have not been determined, but most are initially believed to be related to vaping counterfeit marijuana products containing vitamin E oil, which is dangerous if inhaled.
cw/se (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)