Today’s FDA Action Against Some… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Today’s FDA Action Against Some E-Cigarettes Is Not a Substitute for a Ban on All Flavored Products

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 27, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – The FDA has taken a positive step today by issuing ten warning letters to retailers and manufacturers who sell particularly outrageous e-cigarette products that target kids, but this action is not a substitute for a ban on all flavored e-cigarettes given the clear evidence that flavors have fueled skyrocketing youth use. Rather than playing whack-a-mole with a handful of egregious products, the FDA should clear the market of the thousands of flavored e-cigarettes that are still for sale. As long as some flavored e-cigarettes remain available, kids will migrate to them and we will not solve the problem of youth use.

Rather than clearing the market of all flavored e-cigarettes, as it initially proposed, the Trump Administration in February implemented a loophole-riddled policy that left thousands of flavored e-cigarettes for sale and provided a roadmap for manufacturers to continue targeting and addicting kids. The kid-friendly products that remain on the market include cheap, disposable e-cigarettes sold in an assortment of flavors, nicotine e-liquids sold in over 15,000 flavors, refillable devices and menthol-flavored pod products like Juul. Today’s FDA action addresses very few of these products.

However, today’s FDA action is a timely reminder of how the e-cigarette industry continues to shamelessly target kids with its products and marketing. The warning letters cover products that make it easy for kids to hide their e-cigarette use from parents and teachers, including backpacks and sweatshirts designed with stealth pockets to conceal an e-cigarette and e-cigarettes that resemble smartwatches or children’s toys such as a portable video game system or fidget spinner. Other warning letters were issued to companies marketing e-liquids that imitate packaging for youth-oriented food products like candy or feature cartoon characters like SpongeBob SquarePants.

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the e-cigarette industry’s irresponsible and harmful marketing. In recent weeks, e-cigarette makers and vape shops have continued to aggressively market their products even as health experts warn that smoking and vaping can increase risk of severe complications from COVID-19. They have exploited COVID-19 by offering free giveaways of protective personal equipment like masks, made illegal and unproven health claims, and aggressively marketed flavored products. (See a slideshow of the e-cigarette industry’s recent marketing.)

Only the elimination of all flavored e-cigarettes can reverse skyrocketing youth use and prevent e-cigarettes from addicting a new generation of kids. Until the FDA takes nationwide action, states and cities should continue their growing efforts to prohibit the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products.