Number of Kids Using E-Cigarettes Is an Epidemic, Says FDA

E-cigarette warnings to arrive in high school bathrooms nationwide

E-cigarette warnings to arrive in high school bathrooms nationwide

That's what the nation's top health officials at the Food and Drug Administration announced last week as it ordered e-cigarette manufacturers to stop advertising their products to teens.

Juul, by far the most popular e-cigarette device, does not offer marijuana pods, but users can re-fill cartridges with cannabis oil.

US health officials are sounding the alarm about teenage use of e-cigarettes, calling the problem an "epidemic" and ordering manufacturers to reverse the trend or risk having their flavored vaping products pulled from the market.

But preliminary federal data shows vaping by high school students is up by about 75 percent this year, which would translate into use by more than 20 percent of this age group.

It marks a shift in the agency's tone on e-cigarettes.

More startling, Crosby added, is that use is growing because teens are encouraging their friends to use e-cigarettes, a behavior officials have not seen for years with tobacco products. "And we're committed", said executive Ashley Gould.

A school-based survey shows almost 1 in 11 USA students have used marijuana in electronic cigarettes, heightening health concerns about the new popularity of vaping among teens. They noted the survey did not ask specifically about Juul, a sleek, heavily-marketed e-cigarette brand that exploded onto the market and accounts for 70 percent of US sales, according to analyst estimates.

"There's a large pool of nicotine users that's being created among kids by these products", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. The companies sell Vuse, Blu, Juul, MarkTen XL, and Logic e-cigarette brands, which account for 97 percent of USA e-cigarette sales, according to FDA. If those aren't adequate, Gottleib said his agency could move to block sales of the flavored products by enforcing a requirement that companies provide the FDA with design and health data about their products before putting them on the market.

"For the first time ever, we are bringing the campaign into high schools to the point of contact where they are doing the behavior", said Kathy Crosby, who directs the Office of Health Communication and Education at the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

Big tobacco, on the other hand, could benefit in a couple of ways. Altria Group Inc. and British American Tobacco Plc had the biggest one-day percentage gain in about a decade.

The FDA also announced 1,300 warning letters and fines to online and traditional stores that have illegally sold Juul and other e-cigarettes to minors. "We will continue to monitor use very carefully ... and hope our experience will be useful to others".

Vaping was conceived as a way to help adult smokers quit by providing a nicotine fix without the carcinogenic properties of smoking.

"Voluntary action by companies has never been a solution", he added, "and the FDA must prohibit their social media marketing and crack down on the use of flavors".

Gottlieb criticized e-cigarette companies' handling of the underage use problem, saying they approached it as "a public relations challenge rather than seriously considering their legal obligations".