In a press release issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb admits to sending some 1,100 warning letters to vaping retailers suspected of selling to minors. His agency has further issued another 131 civil financial penalties to vape shops that have already been caught repeatedly conducting these types of illegal sales activities.
And Gottlieb is not stopping there. The FDA has also instructed five of the vaping industry’s most predominate manufacturers to provide very specific and high-detailed plans of action outlining their long-term corporate efforts to prevent teen vaping. Retailers Juul, Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu and Logic 60 make up an estimated 97 percent of the national market share of e-cig sales, and Gottlieb is demanding their responses to the FDA investigation within the next 60 days.
“Given the magnitude of the problem, we’re requesting that the manufacturers of these brands and products come back to the FDA in 60 days with robust plans on how they’ll convincingly address the widespread use of their products by minors, or we’ll revisit the FDA’s exercise of enforcement discretion for products currently on the market.”
According to a report in USA Today, the FDA firmly believes that more than 2 million middle school, high school, and college students are now vaping regularly. And because the federal agency misguidedly misclassifies vaping devices as tobacco products per the FDA deeming regulations of 2015, Gottlieb apparently is under political pressure to resolve the issue one way or another. This more current investigation follows a former 120-day FDA probe which ended earlier this summer regarding the potential pros and cons of flavored e-liquids being sold in the United States.
In the final days of the earlier probe ending in July, reports began to surface that the government website responsible for collecting public remarks received over one-quarter of a million spammed comments that were anti-vaping in nature and worded very similarly in both tone and style. Suspicions began to mount on social media that the notoriously vaping hating organization The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids may have been the likely culprit. The FDA neither confirmed nor denied these claims of alleged wrong doing.
Poor parenting or teen vaping epidemic?
Whenever the FDA issues these press releases, then usually forget – perhaps intentionally – to distinguish the vast health differences between smoking and vaping. Yes, statistics show that teen e-cig use in escalating, but data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates a rapid decline in teen smoking rates simultaneously.
Since many public health experts agree that vaping is up to 95 percent less harmful than smoking, the fact that teenagers are choosing the former rather than the latter should be viewed as somewhat positive news. However, the FDA’s push to intentionally and dishonestly equate vaping with smoking seems to be working. In the aforementioned USA Today article, the reporter refers to a conversation with a parent of a teenage vaper- a woman named Kelli Cogan.
“Kelli Cogan says her 15-year-old son was able to get free Juul cartridges online last year by using his father's name and birth name and having them shipped to a different address. The Ohio woman says the company offered to block her husband's name from ordering, but she didn't think that was sufficient.”
The USA Today article offers some rather interesting background on this alleged teen vaping problem. If Cogan is to be believed, then her poor ability to parent her child is reason enough for the United States government to delegalize vaping devices and flavored e-liquids. Her teenage son essentially stole his father’s credit card, purchased vaping products online, and was devious enough to actually have the e-cigs shipped to the address of a complicit third-party.
Talk about your Nanny State regulations. Ms. Cogan seems to want the FDA to help co-parent her child.
FDA Chief Gottlieb seems to agree with Ms. Cogan’s reasoning. In the Wednesday press release, Gottlieb calls teen vaping an “epidemic” that should no longer be tolerated.
Meanwhile in the days following the announcement of more aggressive investigatory efforts by the FDA into underage sales of vaping technology, something rather odd is happening on Wall Street. Bloomberg reports that since the FDA press release last week, Big Tobacco stocks rallied for the first time in over a decade. Altria Group and British American Tobacco saw gains of 7.7 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively, their highest jumps since 2008.
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