In a recent C-Span broadcast hosted by Axios, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb dropped a bombshell: The FDA is considering an online e-cig sales ban. “That’s going to be one thing that’s on the table. It’s very clearly something we are now looking at,” Gottlieb said.
The declaration came as part of a summit on teen vaping, where students shared their opinions on the highly controversial topic. E-cig use has increased in popularity among teenagers nationwide, and it is estimated that nearly 1 out of every 3 students currently vape.
The students interviewed took time to share their concerns with host Mike Allen. One of the key issues brought forward, was the failure of age-regulated purchasing platforms within the vape community. This weak spot has allowed students to purchase e-cigs underage, at certain retail locations operating outside of the confines of age-restricted sales. Failure to check ID has allowed underage students to use e-cigs openly across a large number of college campuses across the US.
Some would argue that the failure to check ID has been an ongoing problem for years, and has allowed members of the youth community to purchase cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and alcohol. While it is unclear who should take the blame, strict enforcement at the store level seems like the best place to start.
Gregory Conley, head of the non-profit American Vaping Association also sat down to provide his input on the topic. He discussed one some of the difficulties associated with youth use reporting, and the confusion that certain inaccuracies could pose. While youth use has seen a spike over the past few years, this is most likely directly caused by an increase in students actively looking for less harmful alternatives. Gregory adopted e-cigs early on, and immediately saw the importance the vape industry would have in the public health sector.
Non-tobacco flavors (such as fruits and desserts) have played a key role in quitting traditional tobacco products, but have recently fallen under scrutiny at the FDA. The importance of flavors within the vape community was confirmed by Gregory who stated, “if you do not have flavors, you do not have adults switching to these products.”
Mainstream media outlets have largely avoided the fact that million of cigarette users have switched to vaping (2.9 million daily users, and an 85% past smoker quit rate in the last five years). And even though the direct effects associated with long term e-cigs use are unknown, it’s extremely hard to argue their success in the harm reduction field. A failure to take note of e-cigs role in quitting cigarettes, would most likely have some rather negative side effects; and could even cause previous users, including those in youth age groups, to revert back to traditional tobacco products.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb ended the broadcast by offering his solution to recent spike in underage e-cig use: a ‘narrowing’ of availability for adults, a ban of the product sale in certain cases, and strict online sales regulation. He went on to state that, “all the trends are turning sharply in the wrong direction, including the number of kids using e-cigarettes for a long duration of time: 20 days or more…” Heavy restriction or an overall ban of e-cigarettes could stop youth seems unlikely to keep people from vaping (regulating things on the internet is challenging at best…). Unfortunately, Gottlieb did not seem concerned with the detrimental effects a prohibition-style ban could have on the public health sector.
The future of the vape industry is now unclear, and millions of lives have been put in the hands of the FDA. The multi-million dollar privatized vaping sector, focused on helping users find comfort in less harmful alternatives to traditional tobacco products, could very well change dramatically with just a few votes…