The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has called for a “more critical look” of the vaping industry after the sale of e-cigarette liquids that look like children’s juice boxes, sweets and biscuits were discontinued in the United States, but are still on sale in the UK.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that 17 manufacturers, distributors and retailers – warned by the regulator in May 2018 – had stopped offering the nicotine-containing liquids used in e-cigarettes with labelling or advertising that resemble child-friendly food products.
However, firms in the UK are continuing to sell these products, which include Candy King, V’Nilla Cookies & Milk and Unicorn Cakes, online.
Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board, said these products were “the vaping equivalent of alcopops and clearly designed to hook teenagers into an addiction”.
“We do not yet fully understand the long-term impact of vaping but to encourage young people to use the products is fundamentally wrong.
“Governments of all persuasions have managed to control inappropriate marketing and products by the tobacco industry and it is time that a more critical look was taken of the vaping industry,” she said.
The FDA said its warning letters were part of “ongoing efforts to protect youth from the dangers of nicotine and tobacco products”. Several of the companies that received warning letters had also been cited for illegally selling the products to minors, the FDA said.
“Removing these products from the market was a critical step toward protecting our kids,” said Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner.
“When companies market these products using imagery that misleads a child into thinking they’re things they’ve consumed before, like a juice box or candy, that can create an imminent risk of harm to a child who may confuse the product for something safe and familiar,” he said.
He added that the FDA would continue to take vigorous actions under its Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to restrict youth access, limit youth appeal and reduce toxic exposure to youth from all tobacco products, and, in particular, e-cigarettes.
In May 2018, after being told by The Pharmaceutical Journal that these products were being sold in the UK, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said that while current evidence suggests that uptake of e-cigarettes among young people is very low, it would “continue to monitor this area very closely”.
Antony Bentinck, managing director at Not Blowing Smoke Ltd, which sells ‘V’Nilla Cookies & Milk’, said protecting children from purchasing age restrictive products should always be its primary concern.
However, he added that more effort should be put into exercising the existing age restrictive laws that prohibit companies selling to those who are underage.
“Age verification tools should be mandatory for all retailers, especially online, and heavily enforced,” said Bentinck. “Simply restricting the creativity and marketing capabilities of a growing industry is the wrong approach.”