(NBC News) — The use of e-cigarettes has become an epidemic among teens and needs to be stopped, Food and Drug Administration chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Wednesday.
The FDA said it was cracking down hard on sales of vaping products to teenagers and said it was reconsidering a grace period to allow makers to apply for FDA approval of their products.
“We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, and we must adjust certain aspects of our comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger,” Gottlieb said in a statement.
“We’re announcing the largest ever coordinated initiative against violative sales in the history of the FDA. This is the largest single enforcement action in agency history. It’s aimed at retail and online sales of e-cigarettes to minors.”
The FDA may also limit the sale of certain flavored products, Gottlieb said.
“The vast majority of the violations were for the illegal sale of five e-cigarette products — Vuse, Blu, JUUL, MarkTen XL, and Logic. These five brands currently comprise over 97 percent of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes,” the FDA said.
“In addition, today the FDA also issued 12 warning letters to other online retailers that are selling misleadingly labeled and/or advertised e-liquids resembling kid-friendly food products such as candy and cookies.”
‘ALMOST UBIQUITOUS — AND DANGEROUS TREND’
FDA had taken a slow approach to allow manufacturers to figure out how to submit products for consideration. But Gottlieb says sales have soared, especially to teens, who can quickly become addicted to nicotine.
Studies show that teens who vape are also more likely to go on to smoke traditional burned cigarettes. They also show that the nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive, and that the other chemicals added as part of the flavoring might be harmful.
And vaping products, including Juul and other brands, use fruity and candy-like flavors to attract users.
“I’ll be clear. The FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products,” Gottlieb said.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar praised the FDA.
“No child should be using any tobacco or nicotine-containing product. We commend the FDA for the critical, immediate and historic action to address the sale and marketing of these products to kids, while it examines additional aggressive steps to stem the troubling trend of their use among youth,” Azar said.