U.S. plans to ban sales of fla­vored e-cig­a­rettes

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Front Page - FRANK E. LOCK­WOOD

WASH­ING­TON — Alarmed by the rapid rise in va­p­ing by young peo­ple, the White House plans to re­move most fla­vored e-cig­a­rettes from the mar­ket, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

The new pol­icy was an­nounced dur­ing a joint ap­pear­ance by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, first lady Me­la­nia Trump, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Alex Azar and Dr. Ned Sharp­less, act­ing com­mis­sioner of the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Trump por­trayed va­p­ing as a pub­lic-health men­ace.

“It’s very danger­ous. Chil­dren have died. Peo­ple have died,” he said. “Peo­ple have died.”

It’s un­clear when the crack­down would com­mence.

“It’ll take sev­eral weeks for us to put out the fi­nal guid­ance that would an­nounce all the pa­ram­e­ters around the en­force­ment pol­icy. And then

there will likely be about a 30day de­layed ef­fec­tive date, as is cus­tom­ary with FDA’s good guid­ance prac­tices,” Azar told re­porters. “At that point, all fla­vored e-cig­a­rettes, other than to­bacco fla­vor, would have to be re­moved from the mar­ket.”

Pro­duc­ers of to­bacco-fla­vored e-cig­a­rettes could con­tinue to sell their prod­ucts for now, but would be re­quired to file for FDA ap­proval by May, Azar said.

Other fla­vors would be banned from the mar­ket ab­sent ap­proval from the FDA.

“This would in­clude mint and men­thol fla­vor­ing, as well as candy fla­vors, bub­blegum fla­vor, fruit fla­vor, al­co­hol fla­vor. You get the drift,” Azar told re­porters.

Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety ac­tivists from Arkansas, who had urged law­mak­ers this week to ad­dress fla­vored e-cig­a­rettes, learned about the White House crack­down af­ter wrap­ping up a lob­by­ing trip to Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

“I’m glad this is­sue is front and cen­ter and get­ting so much at­ten­tion,” said Ed Coul­ter of Moun­tain Home, a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety Can­cer Ac­tion Net­work’s na­tional board of di­rec­tors.

E-cig­a­rette prod­ucts in Arkansas and 32 other states have been linked to more than 450 “pos­si­ble cases of lung ill­ness,” ac­cord­ing to the fed­eral Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Prevention.

Deaths have been re­ported in Ore­gon, Cal­i­for­nia, Illi­nois, In­di­ana, Kansas and Min­nesota.

Ear­lier this month, Michi­gan be­came the first state to bar the sales of fla­vored e-cig­a­rettes.

On Mon­day, some mem­bers of the Arkansas Gen­eral Assem­bly heard from ex­perts and dis­cussed op­tions for reg­u­lat­ing and tax­ing e-cig­a­rettes. In this year’s reg­u­lar leg­isla­tive ses­sion, law­mak­ers de­clined to pass any bills aimed specif­i­cally at cur­tail­ing e-cig­a­rette use de­spite calls for stricter reg­u­la­tions or higher taxes from pub­lic health ad­vo­cates and pub­lic school ad­min­is­tra­tors. The next leg­isla­tive ses­sion is sched­uled for the spring.

Also this week, Bloomberg Char­i­ties opened a $160 mil­lion cam­paign aimed at protecting chil­dren from e-cig­a­rettes.

The Fam­ily Smok­ing Prevention and To­bacco Con­trol Act gives the FDA “the au­thor­ity to reg­u­late the lev­els of tar, nico­tine, and other harm­ful com­po­nents of to­bacco prod­ucts.”

The 2009 law also gives the FDA power to reg­u­late new to­bacco prod­ucts, as well as ad­di­tives, in­clud­ing fla­vor­ing.

Health ad­vo­cates have bat­tled for more than a half-cen­tury to lower to­bacco us­age, not­ing its links to can­cer, heart dis­ease and strokes.

Smok­ing among U.S. adults, which peaked at 42.4% in 1965, fell to 14% in 2017, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

Smok­ing among young peo­ple is even lower. Just 7.6% of high school se­niors re­ported smok­ing cig­a­rettes over a 30-day pe­riod in 2018, ac­cord­ing to a study by the In­sti­tute for So­cial Re­search at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan.

As a com­par­i­son, 36.5% of high school se­niors in 1997 re­ported smok­ing within a 30day pe­riod.

But while es­chew­ing tra­di­tional cig­a­rettes, young peo­ple are in­creas­ingly em­brac­ing e-cig­a­rettes, which come in a va­ri­ety of fla­vors.

In the 2018 Michi­gan survey, 20.9% of high school se­niors re­ported va­p­ing nico­tine in the pre­vi­ous month. That’s up from 11% in 2017. In ad­di­tion, 7.5% of se­niors re­ported va­p­ing marijuana dur­ing the month, up from 4.9% the pre­vi­ous year.

New data from the Na­tional Youth To­bacco Survey will also show “a con­tin­ued surg­ing in ado­les­cent us­age of e-cig­a­rettes,” Azar told re­porters.

“Cur­rently, about 8 mil­lion adults use e-cig­a­rettes, but 5 mil­lion chil­dren are us­ing e-cig­a­rettes. This is ex­cep­tion­ally harm­ful to our chil­dren. An en­tire gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren risk be­com­ing ad­dicted to nico­tine be­cause of the at­trac­tive­ness, ap­peal-abil­ity and availabili­ty of these va­p­ing prod­ucts,” Azar said.

Elec­tronic cig­a­rettes, which were in­tro­duced in Europe in 2006, quickly spread to the U.S., even­tu­ally be­com­ing a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try.

Trump said va­p­ing is “caus­ing a lot of prob­lems.”

“We’re look­ing at very strong rules and reg­u­la­tions. We al­ready have laws as we need them. But we want to get to the bot­tom of a very un­usual sit­u­a­tion. It’s so new, and it’s be­come so big, so fast. And it could be a po­ten­tial very se­vere prob­lem.”

Sup­port­ers of the va­p­ing in­dus­try said the re­stric­tions would dev­as­tate small busi­nesses and make it harder for cig­a­rette smok­ers to break their addiction.

Gre­gory Con­ley, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Va­p­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, ac­cused Trump of adopt­ing a “dra­co­nian ap­proach to reg­u­la­tion and pub­lic pol­icy.”

“In the his­tory of the United States, pro­hi­bi­tion has never worked. It didn’t work with al­co­hol. It hasn’t worked with marijuana. It won’t work with e-cig­a­rettes,” he said in a writ­ten state­ment. “A fla­vor ban will only lead to the cre­ation of yet an­other multi­bil­lion-dol­lar black mar­ket that will op­er­ate with zero safety con­trols.”

The crack­down also drew crit­i­cism from Cit­i­zens Against Gov­ern­ment Waste, a non­profit group op­posed to “waste, mis­man­age­ment and in­ef­fi­ciency in gov­ern­ment.”

“The Pres­i­dent’s an­nounce­ment is a mis­guided at­tempt to curb teen va­p­ing and could po­ten­tially cause more danger­ous coun­ter­feit va­p­ing prod­ucts to be sold on the streets,” said El­iz­a­beth Wright, the group’s di­rec­tor of health and sci­ence pol­icy. “The ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to re­view all of the facts be­fore rush­ing to put a ban on fla­vors for e-cig­a­rettes that has helped mil­lions of Amer­i­cans quit smok­ing.”

The de­ci­sion drew praise from pub­lic-health ad­vo­cates, in­clud­ing Matthew My­ers of the Cam­paign for To­bacco-Free Kids.

“Pres­i­dent Trump’s an­nounce­ment that the gov­ern­ment will re­move fla­vored e-cig­a­rettes from the mar­ket is a nec­es­sary and long-over­due step to ad­dress the epi­demic of youth e-cig­a­rette use in the United States, but it must be com­pre­hen­sive, im­me­di­ate and long-last­ing. This is a pub­lic health cri­sis and we can­not af­ford more de­lays in con­fronting it,” he said in a writ­ten state­ment.

My­ers’ group will work to pass “a com­pre­hen­sive pro­hi­bi­tion on fla­vored e-cig­a­rettes, and we urge the Ad­min­is­tra­tion not to back down in the face of the in­evitable pres­sure from Juul and other man­u­fac­tur­ers.”

The White House move is also backed by U.S. Sen. John Booz­man, R-Ark.

“Sen. Booz­man sup­ports the move as a way to re­duce un­der­age use of e-cig­a­rettes,” said his spokesman, Pa­trick Creamer.

U.S. Rep. Steve Wo­mack, R-Ark. wants young peo­ple to be healthy, his spokes­woman Alexia Sikora said.

“The quick rise of youth e-cig­a­rette us­age is deeply con­cern­ing. It’s an is­sue Con­gress­man Wo­mack has talked about to stu­dents, as well as the CDC di­rec­tor who vis­ited North­west Arkansas in July,” she said.

The Repub­li­can from Rogers is a co-spon­sor of the Pre­vent­ing On­line Sales of E-Cig­a­rettes to Chil­dren Act, she noted.

AP/ALEX BRAN­DON

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Alex Azar (left), and Ned Sharp­less, act­ing di­rec­tor of the fed­eral Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, dis­cuss the va­p­ing pol­icy Wed­nes­day out­side the White House

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