E-cigarettes are recommended as a tool for adults who are trying to stop smoking. However, there have been warnings in the last few years that they could be leading teenagers towards bad smoking habits. And, the results of a new survey have shown that a growing number of young people are using e-cigarettes on a regular basis, prompting new recommendations from the FDA on how to stop the problem growing further.
In the school-based survey, researchers found that up to 80% of high school students, and 50% of middle school students have used e-cigarettes. Of these, one in five reported vaping in the last month. Health experts have warned of the risks to children who are exposed to nicotine at a young age, which include health issues and addiction that continues into their adult life.
The FDA proposals target flavoured e-liquids. This is due to the fact that over two-thirds of teenagers who reported vaping in the last month said they used flavoured products. Evidence suggests that these products are marketed in a way that appeals to young people. For example, many will use cartoon characters, or the names of products that are appealing to kids, like soda flavour or candy flavour.
According to FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the new policies would target these products in a way that would make them less accessible to minors. For instance, they could be removed from certain shops and websites. However, it wouldn’t apply to products that are “sold exclusively in age-restricted locations — for instance, a stand-alone tobacco retailer (such as a vape shop).”
The FDA says this is because, as e-cigarettes can be helpful for adults trying to quit smoking, they should still be accessible. Therefore, vaping shops that are age restricted shouldn’t be affected. Neither would mint, menthol, or tobacco flavoured e-liquids. This has been met with mixed reactions from health groups. Some groups say that it would simply allow vape shops to expand, and a lot are already struggling to prevent underage sales.
The recommendations have, unsurprisingly, been met with criticism from the vaping industry. In a statement, Gregory Conley, who is the president of the American Vaping Association, said: “No youth should vape and there is room for more rigorous enforcement to ensure youth are not accessing these products. However, this move by Commissioner Gottlieb will only serve to make it harder for adult smokers to switch to a far less harmful alternative”