FDA to propose a ban on menthol cigarettes

Effort aimed at cutting down teen use of e-cigs

By JAMIE GUMBRECHT, CNN
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(CNN) - Taking on epidemic levels of teen e-cigarette use, the US Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce new restrictions on the sale of e-cigarette products an agency official confirmed Thursday.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is expected to announce a ban on the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations as early as next week. The agency will impose age-verification requirements for online sales. Flavored e-cigarette products would be available in vape and tobacco shops.

Gottlieb is also expected to propose a ban on menthol in regular cigarettes.

The new restrictions were first reported by the Washington Post.

The convenience store ban on flavored e-cigarette sales would not include menthol. Because the FDA will continue to allow the sale of menthol in regular cigarettes, the agency doesn't want to give cigarettes an advantage over e-cigarettes.

E-cigarette makers argue the devices help adult smokers give up cigarettes -- potentially saving them from related illnesses -- by giving a nicotine fix without the smoke and smell of combustible cigarettes. The scientific consensus is still out on the long-term health effects of vaping.

About 6.9 million adults used e-cigarettes in 2017, according to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Thursday.

But the FDA says it didn't foresee the "epidemic" of youth e-cigarette use. More than 2 million middle and high school students were current users of e-cigarettes in 2017, the FDA said, and e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product by youth.

The FDA announced in September it would investigate major e-cigarette makers Juul, MarkTen, Vuse, Blu and Logic, including reviews of marketing and sales practices. It also said it cracked down on 1,300 retailers who illegally sold e-cigarettes to minors.

Juul declined to comment on the new restrictions.

The FDA recently launched a massive education campaign aimed at the nearly 10.7 million teens at risk for e-cigarette use, taking the message that vaping is dangerous into high school bathrooms and social media feeds.

"E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous -- and dangerous -- trend among teens," Gottlieb said in September. "The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we're seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end. It's simply not tolerable."

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