For those in favor of tighter regulations on everything from student loans to carbon emissions, there's not a lot of joy coming out of the federal government. But credit the Food and Drug Administration for ordering Juul Labs and other vaping device-makers to find a way to keep electronic cigarettes away from teens.
The FDA also issued warning letters and fines to retailers caught selling e-cigarettes to anyone under age 18, as required by federal law.
The FDA gave the makers of e-cigarettes 60 days to show they can keep the devices from minors. If an adequate plan is not implemented, the agency warned it may remove the products from the market.
Let's hope the FDA is prepared to follow through on its warning. After all, it is a safe bet the e-cigarette industry will not police itself. If anything, the industry will develop some bogus guidelines to string everyone along while still peddling its addictive products.
Efforts to warn teens about the ills of cigarette smoking have been largely successful. But in just a few years, teen vaping has reached "an epidemic proportion," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said this week. More than 2 million middle and high school students are regular users of e-cigarettes.
Much of the growth is due to teens "Juuling." Juul is the dominate seller of the sleek vaping device, which resembles a computer flash drive. But Big Tobacco firms have also jumped in, using their same old tricks to sell vaping devices, which cost around $50. Vaping involves puffing on vaporized liquid nicotine, sold separately in pods, as opposed to inhaling burned tobacco with traditional cigarettes. Vaping is believed to be somewhat healthier than cigarettes, but the full effects are still emerging.
Research has found vaping causes more adolescents to try cigarettes. One study found increased levels of carcinogenic compounds in the urine of teens who vape. Another study linked the chemical used to flavor some vape juice to so-called popcorn lung. Vaping is also addictive. "The nicotine in these products can rewire an adolescent's brain, leading to years of addiction," Gottlieb said.
Many schools are battling the explosion of kids hooked on vaping in bathrooms and classrooms. The FDA launched an investigation earlier this year into whether Juul and other makers are intentionally marketing to teens.
Developing regulations that keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors, but available to adults is next to impossible. Any benefits of converting adult cigarette smokers to e-cigarettes is outweighed by harmful effects to addicting future generations of kids who otherwise would have never smoked.
Indeed, a study released in July found vaping devices don't help smokers quit, undercutting the product's main pitch. In some instances, individuals have become duel users, smoking cigarettes and vaping.
That is all the more reason why the FDA should ban e-cigarettes before more teens get addicted and more health problems emerge.