FDA has declared a vaping epidemic.

There's a new epidemic gripping our nation

Original Source:

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday labeled youth vaping an “epidemic,” months after school officials in Indiana started raising concernsabout the number of teenagers using the flavored electronic cigarettes.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency will halt sales if major manufacturers can’t prove they are doing enough to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of children and teens, USA Today reported.

The manufacturers of Juul, Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu and Logic have 60 days to submit “robust” plans for preventing youth vaping.

Here’s what parents — and teens — should know about the new crackdown:

What is vaping?

Vaping is using a battery-powered device to heat liquid-based nicotine into an inhalable vapor. The liquids often come in enticing flavors, like cotton candy or bubble gum.

Many of the devices, including Juul, look more like a flash drive than a cigarette.

What is Juul?

Juul is one type of flavored e-cigarette that contains nicotine. The light weight device can fit in the palm of hand. Juul devices charge by plugging into a computer’s USB port.

The Juul starter kit costs $49.99. After that, it costs $15.99 for a pack of four flavored liquid cartridges called pods, which are 5 percent nicotine. Each pod is the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes, according to Juul’s website, but pods are about $1.50 cheaper than a pack of cigarettes in Indiana.

Is vaping illegal for people under 18?

Yes. In Indiana, purchasing e-cigarettes is illegal for anyone under the age of 18. In some states, however, the legal purchase age is 21.

Juul’s website describes the product as having “cigarette-like” nicotine levels.

The FDA announced in August 2016 that e-cigarettes would be regulated like other tobacco products. However, some brands were previously immune from regulations because they were already on the market before the announcement.

That’s no longer the case, the FDA announced Wednesday.

The federal agency also said for the first time that some e-cigarettes may be on the market illegally, USA Today reported. Officials said they’re investigating some manufacturers for violating rules that require regulators’ approval to introduce new products after August 2016. They would not say which companies they are investigating.

How are vaping companies reacting to the FDA?

In a statement Wednesday evening, a Juul company spokesperson said: “JUUL Labs will work proactively with FDA in response to its request. We are committed to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people.”

Does vape contain nicotine?

Not every liquid heated to create vapor contains nicotine. Indiana code defines e-liquid as a substance that may or may not contain nicotine. However the American Lung Association warns most do. The five brands targeted by the FDA  make up more than 97 percent of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes, USA Today reported.

Why are school officials so concerned about vaping?

The smaller devices are easy to hide and discrete to use, making it more difficult for schools to catch. Unlike cigarette smoke, the vapor evaporates quickly when exhaled and the oil gives off a sweet smell that officials said can sometimes be confused with perfume.

The practice has caught on quickly among middle- and high-schoolers in Indiana.

In Hamilton County, the Carmel Police Department cited 21 minors with possession of tobacco in 2017, and at least 14 cases involved e-cigarettes. Noblesville cited 59. For both suburbs, that’s nearly three times as many as five years ago, before e-cigarettes rose to popularity. School resource officers told IndyStar last month it continues to be a “daily problem.”

How are teens buying e-cigarettes?

Indiana has attempted to regulate e-liquid products by requiring retailers to make a “good faith effort” to verify purchasers are 18 or older. The state also requires manufacturers to label products that contain nicotine and package them with child-proof caps.

Many of the products are available both in stores and online where there are not stringent checks on age.

In January, Hamilton County Sheriff’s officer Brad Osswald tried purchasing Juul from the company website.

First, a pop-up asked him if he was older than 21. He clicked “yes” and was granted access. After a few minutes of browsing, he selected a starter kit and hit “check out.” The site asked for a credit card number and a birth date.

Since then, Juul’s age verification requirements have strengthened: New users are now asked to provide a social security number and other personal information to “validate your name and date of birth against public records.”

USA Today reported the FDA recently targeted more than 1,300 online and brick-and-mortar retailers with warning letters or civil penalties for selling to minors.Officials said 131 of the retailers will have to pay penalties.

How could e-cigarettes be taken off shelves?

The FDA said if manufacturers plan to keep their products away from underage users don’t go far enough, the agency could order the products off the market, USA Today reported. Companies whose products were ordered off the shelves would have to show they have a net positive public health benefit before resuming sales.

Does it make sense to pull flavored e-cigarettes off the market?

Some research indicates that the chemicals used in the flavoring may themselves be toxic, said Dr. Richard Feldman, director of medical education at Franciscan Health Indianapolis and a former state health commissioner. In addition, taking those products off the market could effectively dissuade teens from use.

“The public health fear is that we’re going to renormalize smoking behaviors again. We have come so far,” Feldman said. “We have come a long way in reducing the social acceptability of smoking, but now we have potentially a new generation of kids being introduced to nicotine, one of the most addictive substances we have.”

What does a more ‘robust’ plan mean?

Juul CEO Kevin Burns told USA Today the company would support “reasonable regulation” to restrict advertising and the naming of flavors such as cotton candy and gummy bear that target children. Juul has mounted an aggressive advertising campaign, including full-page ads in newspapers, targeting parents with messages about teen vaping.

Earlier this year a company news release said Juul Labs monitors retail staff through an in-house program, makes “significant investments” in developing features aimed to prevent underage use and has an “industry-leading ID match and age verification technology” for online sales.

Does vaping help you quit smoking?

Many of these products, like Juul, are marketed as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. Some say vaping can help smokers quit.

Burns, Juul’s CEO, has said restricting flavors “will negatively impact current adult smokers” who want to switch from smoking to vaping. The FDA has banned most flavored cigarettes and tobacco products but hasn’t banned flavored vapes.

While there’s plenty of research that shows negative effects of cigarettes, e-cigarettes are so new there’s still little definitive research about their long-term effects.

“For people who are addicted to nicotine and use cigarettes the message is, ‘We think it’s probably better for you’ … but we don’t know that definitively,” Indiana University Associate Professor Jon Macy previously told IndyStar.

Is vaping safe?

Not according to those in the public health community, said Feldman.

Scientists know that even in the absence of nicotine, vaping lets loose other substances such as formaldehyde that can be detrimental to one’s health. And there’s evidence in the short term that vaping may damage tissue.

Are Juuls and other vaping products just as toxic as traditional cigarettes?

The two work in different ways, Feldman said. Cigarettes involve combusted, or burned, tobacco. E-cigarettes are heated, but not to the point of combustion. Combustion will liberate the most toxins, but even heating a substance can lead to the release of toxins, Feldman said.

“It probably is safer, but I like to call it less toxic rather than safer than combusted tobacco,” he said.

If vaping is not as bad as cigarettes, why is everyone so upset about teens doing it?

The problem, Feldman said, is that many of the teens who start vaping did not smoke in the first place.

“We are balancing harm reduction in smokers with increasing harm for kids that don’t smoke and are picking up an unsafe habit,” he said.

Are there any other measures to take to lower teen use?

Increase taxes, Feldman said. “Probably the single most effective way to discourage teen use is to tax it.”

Contact IndyStar reporter Emma Kate Fittes at 317-513-7854 or Follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @IndyEmmaKate

%d bloggers like this: