When the FDA first asserted the authority to regulate e-cigarettes in 2016, many people assumed the agency would quickly get rid of vapes with flavors like cotton candy, gummy bears, and Froot Loops that appeal to kids.
Instead, the FDA allowed all e-cigarettes already on the market to stay while their manufacturers applied for the OK to market them.
Seven years later, vaping has ballooned into an $8.2 billion industry, and manufacturers are flooding the market with thousands of products — most sold illegally and without FDA permission — that can be far more addictive.
“The FDA has failed to protect public health,” said Eric Lindblom, a former senior adviser to the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “It’s a tragedy.”
Yet the FDA isn’t the only entity that has tolerated the selling of vapes to kids.
Multiple players in and out of Washington have declined to act, tied the agency’s hands, or neglected to provide the FDA with needed resources. Former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both have prevented the FDA from broadly banning candy-flavored vapes.
Meanwhile, today’s vapes have become “bigger, badder, and cheaper” than older models, said Robin Koval, CEO of the Truth Initiative, a tobacco control advocacy group. The enormous amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes — up 76% over five years — can addict kids in a matter of days, Koval said.
E-cigarettes in the U.S. now contain nicotine concentrations that are, on average, more than twice the level allowed in Canada and Europe. The U.S. sets no limits on the nicotine content of any tobacco product.
“We’ve never delivered this level of nicotine before,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which opposes youth vaping. “We really don’t know the long-term health implications.”
Elijah Stone was 19 when he tried his first e-cigarette at a party. He was a college freshman, grappling with depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and “looking for an escape.” Store clerks never asked for his ID.
Stone said he was “hooked instantly.”
Read the full article from KFF.