This story was updated Sept. 16, 2019 with New York state's ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
Sept. 12, 2019 -- The Trump administration will ask that the FDA ban non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes from the market.
The news came amid growing concern over the six deaths and 450 possible cases of lung illness linked with the use of e-cigarette products. But many of those cases appear to be linked to THC cartridges.
On Sept. 15, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an emergency executive order banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes there. The state will also ramp up enforcement on stores that sell products to underage teens.
The FDA has long been concerned about the increasing use of flavored e-cigarettes by teens and young adults.
Early numbers from the National Youth Tobacco Survey show that e-cigarette use, especially of non-tobacco flavors that appeal to kids, continues to rise. More than a quarter of high school students report the use of e-cigarettes in 2019, with most favoring fruit, menthol, or mint flavors.
"This is an important step in response to the epidemic of e-cigarette use among our nation's youth, and will help protect them from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks," CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, said in a statement.
Many others agreed, including public health advocates and e-cigarette maker and market leader JUUL.
"We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products," Ted Kwong, a spokesman for JUUL, said in a statement.
A day before President Trump’s announcement, the FDA warned the company that it was using false advertising targeting students and others to claim e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes.
‘An Important First Step’
The FDA is already preparing a new policy, and details of it are expected soon.
"I want to see the plan implemented immediately," says Matthew Wellington, campaign director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s End the Nicotine Trap, adding that he hopes “the FDA doesn't drag its feet in accomplishing that goal."
He suggests that the FDA should also “ban all other flavored tobacco products, cigarettes, and cigars, because flavors appeal to kids. I think the FDA has dragged its feet historically on decisions like this. They should have done this years ago."
In a statement, Wellington adds: “Research also suggests that young people who use e-cigarettes are three times more likely to start smoking combustible cigarettes."
Pulling flavored e-cigarettes off the market ''would not fully address the problem of the recent lung illness associated with vaping THC," Wellington says.
Hooked on Flavors
"We are thrilled today that … the FDA is going to use its authority to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market," says Meredith Berkman, a co-founder of Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes, an organization formed a year ago by three mothers.
"We have known for a long time that the flavors have hooked our kids on these products," she says. "This isn't going to solve the existing problem we have now -- millions of kids addicted to nicotine -- but hopefully this will slow the huge rate of growth of youth use of e-cigarettes."
She blames e-cigarettes for that widespread exposure to nicotine among teens. "This is a generation of kids that would otherwise not be initiated into tobacco use," Berkman says. Fewer teens had been smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products before the e-cigarette trend took hold.
In November 2018, JUUL suspended the distribution of non-tobacco and non-menthol-based flavored JUUL pods to its more than 90,000 traditional retail store partners, but kept them available online through an age-gated channel.
Trade group Vapor Technology Association calls the idea of a ban misguided. Vapor products help adults quit smoking, and "banning flavors would be a public health travesty," Executive Director Tony Abboud says in a statement.
The association says a flavor ban would force more than 10 million adults to choose between smoking again or finding what they need and want on the black market.
Black market cartridges have been implicated in the cases of vaping-related lung illnesses that have been surging across the country. While public health officials have not determined what product or ingredient is behind the cases, many of them involved THC.
"We urge this administration to change course before millions of Americans are forced to switch back to deadly cigarettes," the association says, adding the policy change would result in many small businesses closing their doors and numerous layoffs.