Vaping Now an Epidemic Among US High Schoolers
USA — September 13, 2018
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Wednesday declared youth vaping an “epidemic,” and said the agency will halt sales of flavored electronic cigarettes. The FDA gave manufacturers of Juul, Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu and Logic – who make up more than 97% of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes and can’t manage to keep them out of the hands of children and teens – 60 days to submit plans to prevent youth vaping. These companies would have to show they have a net positive public health benefit, otherwise, the FDA could order their products off the market.
In 2016 the FDA banned e-cigarettes’ sale to people under 18 and Now, having included e-cigarettes, vape pens, and other electronic devices into the term “tobacco product”, which was the first time the FDA regulated the e-cig industry.
Today, when the problem of youth vaping has become particularly acute, the FDA is reconsidering its overall approach after a review of preliminary data on youth vaping. The agency targeted more than 1,300 online and brick-and-mortar retailers with warning letters or civil penalties for selling to minors. 131 of the retailers will have to pay penalties, officials said.
“Teenagers are becoming regular users, and the proportion of regular users is increasing,” says Gottlieb, a physician. “We’re going to have to take action.” “No one can look at the data and say there’s no problem,” he says.
More than 2 million middle school, high school and college students use the battery-powered devices to heat liquid-based nicotine into an inhalable vapor. E-cigarettes are by far the most popular tobacco product among teens: nearly 12% of high school students and 3% of middle school students used the device in the past 30 days, according to the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey. But why do teens get addicted?
“I have two teenagers that are now vape addicts,” Jon Ahles of St. Paul, Minnesota, says. “The first thing that the FDA needs to do is ban nicotine. These kids do not have a chance.
Spencer Re of Napa Valley, Calif., who started vaping five years ago as a senior in high school, thinks it is the idea that vaping is a “forbidden substance” – more than the flavors – that makes it more attractive to teens.
Psychologists worry that vaping in youth signals mental health problems. Melissa Sporn, a Fairfax County, Virginia, child psychologist, said teen patients are “self-medicating” with e-cigarettes. Usually, she said, it's because they are anxious or depressed. “It’s a numbing of those feelings,” she said.
Last month the FDA was weighing the benefits of e-cigarettes in helping adults quit smoking against the risk to young people who become addicted to tobacco through vaping. Many adults prefer flavored e-liquid when they are trying to quit. But Gottlieb now says he’s prepared to make vaping less attractive to adults if it reduces the harm to teens.
The American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other health groups sued the FDA in March over a delay announced last year in the deeming regulations from August 2018 to 2022. Gottlieb said last month that even the 2022 deadline would be a challenge for some manufacturers to meet, so they had “better start now.”