A top US health official on Thursday pledged to try to ban menthol from regular cigarettes, outlaw flavors in all cigars, and tighten rules regarding the sale of most flavored versions of electronic cigarettes. In other words, 0.8 percent of middle school students, about 92,000 kids, are frequent vapers.
Smoking has been declining for more than five decades. "All the flavors were out there already", said Kenneth Warner, a University of MI emeritus public health professor who is a leading authority on smoking and health.
Gottlieb worries that "some proportion" of adolescent vapers who "otherwise might never have initiated on tobacco" will "become long-term users of combustible tobacco". Maybe some of them would not have tried tobacco had they not been introduced to nicotine via e-cigarettes.
Well, I don't think we ever said that was going to be an outright ban on the e-cigarettes. But there is no reason to believe that group is large enough to justify Gottlieb's fear that "all the great gains that we've made in this country [in] reducing smoking rates.will be reversed or lost if we can't address the youth use of e-cigarettes". The previous year, 12.7 percent of high school students reported past-month cigarette smoking in the NYTS, almost three times the share who reported vaping.
In short, I think Gottlieb is overreacting to a problem that is not almost as dire as he makes it out to be.
The proposed ban, which would also include flavored cigars, is aimed at "addressing the disturbing trend of youth nicotine use and continuing to advance the historic declines we've achieved in recent years in the rates of combustible cigarette use among kids", he added. They could still be sold in vape shops or other businesses that do not admit minors.
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But the stricter regulations would not cover tobacco-, mint- or menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, because they "are more popular with adults than with kids", according to Gottlieb.
"The increase in e-cigarette popularity (among kids) is nearly certainly not a function of flavors".
"More than half (54 percent) of youth smokers ages 12-17 use menthol cigarettes, compared to less than one-third of smokers ages 35 and older", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement Thursday, calling them "one of the most common and pernicious" ways kids get hooked.
These limits may also take a while to be implemented.
The move comes more than two years after the FDA released its final proposed deeming rule extending its regulatory authority to all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco on May 5, 2016. We did extend the compliance dates on the e-cigarettes when I initially came aboard, again, to try to give them time to come in with applications to the agency, to try to demonstrate what they need to demonstrate to remain on the market, because we do - we do recognize that there may be an opportunity for adults using these products. Those bans, which will take longer to implement than the restrictions on e-cigarettes, are more extreme, but they make more sense from a public health perspective, which attaches no value to pleasure or individual choice.
"I'm deeply concerned about the availability of menthol-flavored cigarettes", Gottlieb said.