FDA moves to restrict sales of electronic cigarettes, but more can be done

Proposal to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars is historic and long overdue

November 15, 2018 Categories: Advocacy News

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 15, 2018 – The American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, issued the following statement from CEO Nancy Brown in response to today’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement to limit access to flavored tobacco products:

“We commend the FDA for recognizing the grave threat posed by electronic cigarettes on our children, and for imposing restrictions on manufacturers. With e-cigarette use having jumped by 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students, the need for action is urgent. But limiting the sale of e-cigarettes is not enough – the FDA should also remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market and prohibit companies from marketing their products in ways that appeal to kids.

“Prohibiting menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars are historic and long overdue steps. Menthol increases initiation and progression to regular smoking, and it enhances the addictiveness and dependence of tobacco. Flavored cigars have grown in popularity among youth as tobacco companies have adjusted to flavor restrictions on other tobacco products. The actions announced today will help prevent menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars from serving as gateways to long-term tobacco use and addiction.”

Electronic cigarettes

“We welcome the FDA Commissioner’s move to prohibit sales of many flavored e-cigarettes in places such as convenience stores and gas stations, which will make e-cigarettes more difficult for children to buy. We urge the FDA to take immediate additional steps to strengthen its crackdown on companies’ aggressive targeting of children, including:

  • Removing flavored e-cigarettes from the market;
  • Prohibiting all marketing practices, including those on social media, that are shown to appeal to children;
  • Suspending online sales of e-cigarettes until effective age verification mechanisms are established; and
  • Enforcing rules that prevent the sale of products that were not commercially marketed as of August 8, 2016, or were modified after that date, without premarket review.

“Strong federal regulation of e-cigarettes is desperately needed at a time when e-cigarette use among kids is reaching epidemic proportions. E-cigarettes remain the most commonly used tobacco product among high school and middle school students, and flavors are a major reason for e-cigarette use.

“In research conducted by AHA’s Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center (A-TRAC), 30 percent of teenage vapers said e-cigarettes taste better, have a bolder flavor and have a less burnt taste than other tobacco products; 42 percent said the ability to try many flavors sets e-cigarettes apart from other tobacco products; and 26 percent said flavors in advertisements and marketing caught their attention.

“The research also found that that a majority of teen vapers prefer no nicotine (39 percent) or a low level of nicotine (20 percent) in e-cigarettes, suggesting that youth use e-cigarettes for the flavor, not the nicotine. Yet, the flavors lure kids into starting an addictive and dangerous habit.”

Menthol

“The FDA’s proposal to ban traditional cigarettes and cigars flavored with menthol is a major step to remove tobacco products from the market that pose an especially grave public health risk. Studies show that menthol cigarettes increase initiation, especially among youth. Menthol also has a disproportionate impact on minorities including African Americans, who favor menthol cigarettes and find them more difficult to successfully quit.

“We urge the FDA to go further to remove all flavored tobacco products whose public health impact has not been adequately assessed, so flavors can no longer increase the risk of initiation and continued tobacco use among children and minorities.”

On November 10, 2018 the American Heart Association signed a joint letter to Commissioner Gottlieb on the increased youth use of e-cigarettes, including Juul. We urged the FDA to take urgent action. 

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About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

For media inquiries please contact:
Steve Weiss -- 202-785-7905; steve.weiss@heart.org