"We're very serious about this," FDA Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a recent interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. "We're seeing both published and unpublished data showing an epidemic of use among youths of alternative nicotine delivery products, e-cigarettes. We are extremely concerned about this. And we're not going to permit it."
"We are committed to getting people off of combustible tobacco," Azar added. "We just simply cannot allow the e-cigarettes to be a vehicle for kids getting addicted on nicotine products… just as we're seeing improvement in adult consumption rates."
On Wednesday, the FDA also issued more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers who illegally sold e-cigarette products to minors and sent 12 warning letters to online retailers selling e-cigarettes that resemble kid-friendly candy and cookies.
"This starts with the actions we're taking today to crack down on retail sales of e-cigarettes to minors. We will also revisit our compliance policy that extended the dates for manufacturers of certain flavored e-cigarettes to submit applications for premarket authorization. I believe certain flavors are one of the principal drivers of the youth appeal of these products," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the FDA statement.
The companies under scrutiny by the FDA include Vuse, Blu, Juul, MarkTen XL and Logic, which are responsible for 97 percent of U.S. e-cigarette sales, according to the FDA.
According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.1 million out of the 3.6 million middle- and high-school students who used tobacco products in 2017 opted for e-cigarettes.
E-cigarette startup Juul has already been slapped with three lawsuits claiming that its products have caused users to become addicted to nicotine. The lawsuits claim that in one of the company's early marketing campaigns, young people were featured using the products, thereby encouraging teens to purchase its devices. They also claim the amount of nicotine in one JuulPod, as the e-cigarette is called, is the same as found in an entire pack of cigarettes.