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Consumer Safety

FDA cracks down on flavored e-cigarette cartridges

Agency warns companies to stop selling unauthorized products that appeal to children

by Britt E. Erickson
January 3, 2020

woman refills e-cigarette tank with liquid from a dropper bottle.
Credit: Shutterstock
An FDA policy to curb teen vaping stops short of banning flavors used in refillable vaping devices.

The US Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to stop the sale of flavored, cartridge-based e-cigarettes that are widely used by children. In a final policy announced on Jan. 2, the agency says that in 30 days it will begin enforcement actions against companies that make, distribute, or sell many unauthorized e-cigarette products. The policy does not apply to products that contain tobacco or menthol flavors, or any flavors used in e-cigarette devices with refillable tanks.

The action is intended to address the epidemic of youth vaping in the US. It does not address the thousands of recent cases of serious vaping lung illnesses, which health officials have linked to contaminated vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

A 2019 survey suggests that nearly one million youth in the US vape nicotine e-cigarettes daily, and that they favor products with fruit or mint flavors. Surveys also suggest that youth primarily vape cartridge-based devices, which are easy to use and conceal. The FDA’s policy attempts to rein in youth vaping while still allowing some flavored e-cigarette products to stay on the market for adults to use to quit smoking tobacco.

“Coupled with the recently signed legislation increasing the minimum age of sale of tobacco to 21, we believe this policy balances the urgency with which we must address the public health threat of youth use of e-cigarette products with the potential role that e-cigarettes may play in helping adult smokers transition completely away from combustible tobacco to a potentially less risky form of nicotine delivery,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn says in a statement.



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