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As if his constant proclamations that e-cigarettes were an “epidemic” didn’t pound home the message strong enough, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb issued a more decisive statement, calling the vaping industry an “existential threat,” according to nbcnews.com.

Pointing to the dramatic rise of teen vaping over the past five years, Gottlieb took additional jabs at the youth marketing practices of JUUL Labs, which dominates the U.S. market.

Armed with the authority to halt sales of vaping devices and products, especially the “fruity flavors” favored by minors, the FDA could force companies to endure the agency’s often-daunting approval process. Health organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have urged FDA officials to put a stranglehold on the industry, nbcnews.com reported.

Gottlieb appears to have been influenced.

“I’ll tell you this,” he told a gathering. “If the youth use continues to rise, and we see significant increases in use in 2019, on top of the dramatic rise in 2018, the entire category will face an existential threat.”

Citing a November 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, declaring a 78-percent rise among high school students, Gottlieb quickly resorted to his tried-and-tested testament: vaping is an “epidemic.”

The FDA’s chief has sat down with a series of vaping company executives and “discussed” their marketing tactics regarding “fruity flavors” and their availability at retail sales to minors.

He didn’t waste too many words.

“I find myself debating with tobacco makers and retailers the merits of selling fruity flavors in ways that remain easily accessible to kids,” Gottlieb said. “It matters if the e-cig makers can’t honor even modest, voluntary commitments that they made to the FDA.”

Lauren Lempert, a researcher at the University of California San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Research and Education, doesn’t always agree with the FDA’s get-tough, get-tougher approach.

“FDA is asking the wrong questions,” Lempert said. “E-cigarettes are recreational products, not drugs. Let’s face it — kids think e-cigarettes are cool and they use them as recreational products.”

Existentially, that’s the real problem the FDA faces.

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