Since the FDA declared youth vaping an epidemic they have spoken openly about additional policies and plans to curb the numbers they say are present in their findings. These reports are not public, but the FDA maintains that their frequent use of the word “epidemic” is accurate. In fact, they believe this “youth vaping epidemic” is so severe that they’re interested in taking some unprecedented action.
The FDA has announced that they will hold a public meeting on December 5thto discuss “the potential role of drug therapies to support youth e-cigarette cessation.” This is part of their plan to “eliminate youth electronic cigarette,” and, seemingly as an afterthought, “other tobacco product use.” Tobacco use among teenagers is not a new thing, of course, and the CDC has plenty of figures on things like cigarette usage by high school students, which was at a 24-year low in 2015.
The most recent study from the CDC that the FDA is referencing for this hearing states that high- and middle-school tobacco product usage was 19.6% and 5.6%, respectively, with 11.7% and 3.3% coming from e-cigarettes.
This is simply bizarre. Existing drug therapies for smoking cessation have poor success rates and there is no published literature on their use in teen habitual vapers.
Discussing giving Chantix to teens may make the drug industry happy, but does it really make sense? https://t.co/HLATPxjBvT
— American Vaping Assn (@AVABoard) November 2, 2018
According to Gottlieb, the still-unpublished data they have, aside from the ones they referenced, shows that “about 20 percent of high school students are ‘frequent e-users,’” which they define as “at least once over a 30-day period.” This is important because ever users are very different than frequent users. The distinction between someone who tried e-liquid one day in a month versus someone who vapes all 30 seems like a no-brainer, but it remains to be seen if the actual data makes that distinction.
Whatever the reasoning, introducing drug therapies, like nicotine patches, from tobacco or pharmaceutical companies could raise some additional red flags. Is there a reason for this “vaping epidemic?” Could pulling vapes off the shelf help anyone?
This comes on the heels of other threatening statements the FDA has made regarding vapes in recent months: including a suggestion that companies eliminate flavors and online sales while the FDA works out a solution to underage vaping. Even as more and more positive studies are conducted in and around vaping, this fight, and most other vaping regulations, is centered around youth access, but will only harm adult vapers, who clearly prefer flavored vapes and ease of access. Despite Gottlieb stating, “If you could take every adult smoker and fully switch them to e-cigarettes, that would have substantial public health impact,” the threat of action against flavored vapes still looms because of the underage access. Nicotine, and caffeine, have shown to have significant effects on adolescent rodent brains, so its restriction seems like it might be natural, but the concern for its effect on human brains has only popped up in the last 12 months, or so.
So where are these kids getting access to vapes anyway? If the more than 1,300 penalties and warnings they sent out in May are any indication, the FDA feels it’s convenience stores. I couldn’t even pump my gas last week without being greeted with a “Juul sold here” sign on top of the pump. Are middle school kids going in there and buying themselves? Possibly. Are others buying for them? Much like alcohol and cigarettes, it’s likely. That’s where the FDA considered possibly the most logical step to solve the issue they feel is at hand: a potential ban on vapes in convenience stores. Limiting vapes, in their current form, to professional vape shops, who operate the right way, including running age verification on online sales (which we do, you may have noticed), seems to be the greatest way to keep as many vapes out of the hands of kids as possible, while still allowing adults who need them to access them. As a bonus, it won’t entirely kill vaping and shut down hundreds, if not more, vape shops with a vast range of employed workers. But, until they decide what they’re actually going to do, vapers and vape companies have to sit and wait. We may not have to wait very long, though, as the FDA announced it will unveil its “forceful” steps to combat the “youth vaping epidemic” in mid-November, which is hopefully, at the very least, accompanied by some actual data.
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