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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued what can only be called a threat to retailers and vaping companies this week – do your part to stop the epidemic of vaping teens, or e-cigarettes could be pulled off the market altogether.

Gottlieb said in a statement,  “I still believe that e-cigarettes present an important opportunity for currently addicted adult smokers to transition off combustible products and onto nicotine delivery products that may not have the same level of risks associated with them. But if these trends of youth e-cigarette use persist, we’ll be forced to consider regulatory steps that could constrain or even foreclose some of the opportunities for currently addicted adult smokers to have the same level of access to these products in order to protect youth.”

That’s right.  If retailers and e-cigarette companies can’t stop vaping teens, adults may lose the right to use e-cigarettes as well.

The FDA is taking aggressive action to stem what it calls the “epidemic” of vaping teens and underage tobacco use – and issuing warning letters to retailers with track records of violating the law and selling tobacco products to kids illegally.  The agency specifically called out Walgreens, which has a reported 1,800 violations, with 22% of their stores selling tobacco to minors. Among the top offenders named in the FDA’s crackdown efforts were Marathon, Exxon, Sunoco, BP, Citgo, and Mobil, with violation rates between 35-44% of inspected stores. The statement also called out specific retailers with pharmacies, stating that 15 – 24% of Kroger, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart stores had violated the law by selling tobacco or e-cigarettes to minors.

Gottlieb said, “While we believe that e-cigarettes offer a potentially safer alternative to combustible tobacco for currently addicted adult smokers who completely switch to these products, these products are not without risks. This is one reason why we strongly believe that no child should be using an e-cigarette or any other tobacco product.”

The FDA puts the responsibility of a potential vaping prohibition squarely on retailers and manufacturers shoulders, stating, “Our opportunity to preserve these opportunities for adults for the long run means that retailers and manufacturers need to take their responsibilities to keep these products out of the hands of kids seriously and ensure these products don’t become a gateway to hooking an entire generation of children on tobacco and nicotine.”

Gottlieb stated, “We all share the important responsibility of keeping harmful and addictive tobacco products out of the hands of kids.”

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb surprised many when he unexpectedly resigned the same week the FDA issued the warning to retailers and vaping companies. What does Scott Gottlieb’s resignation mean for vaping?

Only time, and the next FDA chief, will tell.

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