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Reports of Seizures after E-Cigarette Use Show Why FDA Must Do More to Prevent Youth Use – Kids Cannot be Guinea Pigs

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 03, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – We didn’t need another reason for the FDA to act decisively to prevent youth use of e-cigarettes, but today we have one with the FDA’s announcement that it is investigating several dozen reports that e-cigarette users – mostly youth and young adults – have experienced seizures.

This announcement shows why the FDA must take much stronger action to prevent youth use of e-cigarettes, including immediately requiring makers of all e-cigarettes now on the market to submit their products for FDA review to determine their public health impact – not years from now as the FDA currently plans to do. Our kids can no longer be guinea pigs in a years-long experiment to determine the health risks of e-cigarettes.

While the FDA has issued a clarion call to address the skyrocketing youth e-cigarette epidemic, the FDA’s actions to date fall short of the forceful action this public health crisis demands. The FDA’s current plan to restrict the sale of certain flavored e-cigarettes is not enough and would leave many flavored products popular with kids widely available. Instead, the FDA should prohibit all flavored e-cigarettes that have not been subject to public health review by the agency, halt online sales of e-cigarettes until stronger safeguards are in place to prevent sales to kids, restrict marketing that attracts kids, and enforce rules prohibiting the sale of new products without FDA authorization.

Today’s announcement especially underscores why it is so important that the FDA reverse its decision to delay until 2022 a legally required public health review of e-cigarettes that are already on the market. The FDA recently proposed moving that deadline up by one year to 2021, but that is not enough. Today’s announcement shows why the FDA cannot allow e-cigarettes to remain on the market for years without any review of their health risks. The FDA must require e-cigarette manufacturers to pay for the scientific studies needed to determine the health impact of their products and submit this evidence for FDA review if they want to stay on the market. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other health groups have sued the FDA, arguing that the FDA’s lengthy delay of these product review deadlines exceeds its legal authority.

According to today’s FDA announcement, seizures or convulsions are known potential side effects of nicotine toxicity. It is particularly concerning that Juul – the e-cigarette that has fueled the youth e-cigarette epidemic – delivers nicotine at an unprecedented level and has triggered what a recent study called a “nicotine arms race” among e-cigarette manufacturers. Juul has stated that one Juul pod (cartridge) of nicotine liquid contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes. It is unacceptable that products like Juul that are addicting kids and pose other potential risks are on the market without any FDA review of their health impact.