The US drug safety watchdog is targeting the sale of e-cigarettes to children, which it says is reaching “epidemic proportions”, in its biggest ever enforcement campaign.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued more than 1,300 warning letters and penalty fines to online and high street retailers who have illegally sold e-cigarette products to children and young people aged under 18 years.
It has also issued another 12 warning letters specifically to online retailers for continuing to sell products with misleading labels or advertisements for e-liquids that look like child-friendly sweets or biscuits. These products were banned from sale in May 2018.
Public Health England (PHE) said it would continue to monitor the use of e-cigarettes by people under the age of 18 years in England “very carefully”.
It has been illegal to sell e-cigarette products to people under the age of 18 years in the United States since August 2016, when the FDA’s regulations for tobacco were extended to cover e-cigarettes.
Scott Gottlieb, commissioner at the FDA, said: “We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, and we must adjust certain aspects of our comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger.”
“While we remain committed to advancing policies that promote the potential of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes, that work can’t come at the expense of kids.”
The enforcement action is just one part of a major drive by the FDA against the rise in the use of e-cigarette products in this age group.
It has also given the five top-selling e-cigarette manufacturers in the country 60 days to come up with proposals to help restrict the sale to and use of their products by children.
According to FDA figures, e-cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product by young people in the United States. In 2017, more than two million middle and high school students admitted to using the products.
PHE said it was confident that systems were in place in England to protect children and young people from e-cigarette use.
Rosanna O’Conner, director of drugs, alcohol, tobacco at PHE, said in a statement: “The UK has much stricter regulations [than the United States]; [the product] Juul on sale here has much lower nicotine, print and broadcast ads for e-cigarettes are banned, and selling to or buying for under 18s is against the law.”
“Regular vaping among young people who have never smoked is very rare, while e-cigarettes have become the most popular quitting tool for adult smokers. We will continue to monitor use very carefully … and hope our experience will be useful to others.”