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FDA finalizes rules banning many e-cigarette flavors

The agency hopes the new policy will make the products less popular among teens and children

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Reports in recent weeks have suggested that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was getting ready to ban a litany of flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes. On Thursday, those speculations became reality as the agency finalized its enforcement policy on the issue.

In a press release, the agency said its decision is motivated by the desire to stem the tide of youth vaping in the U.S., which has been called an “epidemic” by officials.

“The United States has never seen an epidemic of substance use arise as quickly as our current epidemic of youth use of e-cigarettes,” said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar. 

“By prioritizing enforcement against the products that are most widely used by children, our action today seeks to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential off-ramp for adults using combustible tobacco while ensuring these products don’t provide an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for our youth.”

Policy takes place within 30 days

The FDA says that the new policy will be enforced within 30 days after it has been submitted to the Federal Register for publication. After that time, the agency says that it will begin enforcement actions against illegal electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) that fit the following description:

  • Any flavored, cartridge-based ENDS product (other than tobacco- or menthol-flavored ENDS product);

  • All other ENDS products for which the manufacturer has failed to take (or is failing to take) adequate measures to prevent minors’ access; and 

  • Any ENDS product that is targeted to minors or likely to promote use of ENDS to minors.

In other words, the agency will aggressively pursue legal action against companies who sell e-cigarettes or e-liquids that have flavors other than tobacco and menthol, and it will be paying special attention to how products are marketed to young people.

“Coupled with the recently signed legislation increasing the minimum age of sale of tobacco to 21, we believe this policy balances the urgency with which we must address the public health threat of youth use of e-cigarette products with the potential role that e-cigarettes may play in helping adult smokers transition completely away from combustible tobacco to a potentially less risky form of nicotine delivery,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn.

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