By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - November 15, 2018
Nearly two months after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put e-cigarette companies on notice about selling vaping products to teenagers, the federal agency is at it again.
The FDA announced today a plan to restrict the sales of flavored e-cigarettes at brick-and-mortar stores that are accessible to underage customers. The only flavors sold will be tobacco, mint and menthol. The agency will also outline stricter age-verification requirements for online e-cigarette sales.
While this ban could go a long way to help prevent a new generation of smokers, Dr. Thomas Brandon, chair of Moffitt’s Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior and a longtime tobacco researcher, warns there could be an unintended consequence. “We need to remember that current scientific consensus is that vaping is far safer than smoking. The FDA needs to find the right balance between discouraging e-cigarettes by adolescents while still encouraging adult cigarette smokers to switch completely over to e-cigarettes. It is a bit ironic that adult smokers will now have an easier time buying traditional cigarettes (which kill half their users) than e-cigarettes (which may help them quit smoking). ”
The FDA has been hesitant to issue an all-out ban on flavored e-cigarette products for this exact reason. Those who vape will still be able to purchase flavored e-cigarette products at vape and tobacco shops, which the FDA believes are more careful about verifying the age of those making purchases.
Another announcement expected this week from the FDA is the ban of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. It’s a move that could take at least two years to go into effect because of regulatory approvals and possible lawsuits from tobacco companies.
Menthol cigarettes are popular among young people. The menthol cools the mouth and throat reducing irritation caused by cigarette smoke. Experts say it makes it more appealing and easier to smoke, but menthol also makes it harder to quit and the health risks are greater than non-menthol tobacco products.
Canada has already banned menthol cigarettes, and the European Union’s ban will go into effect in 2020. Earlier this year, San Francisco passed a proposition prohibiting the sale menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes.