FDA Declares Youth E-Cigarette Epidemic

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration visited JUUL’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco, on September 28th. The administration showed up unannounced and confiscated thousands of documents in relation to their ongoing investigation in effort to prevent the youth’s use of tobacco products as part of the Youth Tobacco Prevention Planfocusing its target on e-cigarettes. The FDA is an administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human services that protects the public's health by ensuring safety through regulating the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products

In April 2018, JUUL’s CEO willingly handed over 50,000 documents, due to the accusation of targeting minors through their marketing schemes. The FDA requested documents related to: “product marketing, health research, toxicological, behavioral or physiologic effects of the products, product design features, ingredients or specifications appeal to different age groups; and youth-related adverse events and consumer complaints associated with the products.”  The new FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb states that the JUUL and other similar products "closely resemble a USB flash drive and have high levels of nicotine and emissions that are hard to see. These characteristics may influence youth use, by making the products more attractive to children and teens...[and] also more difficult for parents and teachers to recognize or detect.”

The use of e-cigarettes has undeniably become an epidemic issue for adolescents as it grows in popularity. The FDA’s effort to regulate nicotine use through the Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan is practiced by increasing regulations for retailers and manufacturers – to ultimately get ahead of the issue. The FDA admitted to performing nationwide undercover stings on both online and brick-and-mortar retailers in hopes of further preventing the selling of e-cigarettes to minors. They uncovered 1,300+ violations for illegal sales of e-cigarettes to youth.

A shocking public health fact according to the Center for Disease Control is that “if smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years of age are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness.” Ultimately, this is a public health crisis. Not only will this affect the health outcomes of many young Americans, but it will devastatingly affect our economy as well, likely increasing our health care spending tremendously in the future.

The FDA is focused on figuring out what the sudden appeal of e-cigarettes is to the youth, which has lead to the investigation of the marketing schemes made by JUUL and other major manufacturers such as Vuse, MarkTen XL, blu e-cigs, and Logic. Government efforts of prevention mentioned by the FDA are: holding retailers accountable by enforcing the law and issuing fines with the help of the state for any illegal sales to minors, holding manufacturers accountable for marketing ploys and misleading information to kids, possibly banning flavored options, bringing criminal or civil charges for bulk sales, creating regulatory gates for manufacturers, and regulating nicotine levels. Additional regulations will come forth as efforts increase.

The FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has made his message clear that it’s the FDA's mission to crack down on the youth tobacco epidemic by putting the radar on manufacturers and retailers of e-cigarettes. The FDA will continue to promote educational campaigns including “The Real Cost” to educate at-risk teens and “This is Our Watch” to educate retailers on their role in protecting the youth. The FDA also gave each manufacturer 60 days to submit plans on how they will address the youth use of their products – if the companies fail to do so efficiently there will be market consequences through regulation.

I believe the education campaigns are useful in preventing our youth from becoming addicted to nicotine. Prevention measures are key for this public health epidemic. The kids are our future, we need to protect their interests at all costs.