The FDA believes that electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, e-cigs or vapes) are a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes but is worried that they are enticing to juveniles who are not allowed to buy cigarettes until they are 18 in most places in the US.
On Tuesday, Gottlieb told an Axios News Shapers event that the agency will reveal data on teen vaping in November.
Gottlieb said there's an epidemic of kids using e-cigarettes. "E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous ‒ and dangerous ‒ trend among teens," Gottlieb said in a September 12 statement. "The FDA won't tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products."
According to Axios, citing FDA data, e-cig use among high school-aged kids has risen by 80 percent year on year between 2017 to 2018.
In the same statement, Gottlieb said the FDA is looking into banning flavored e-cigarettes. "One factor we're closely evaluating is the availability of characterizing flavors. We know that the flavors play an important role in driving the youth appeal. And in view of the trends underway, we may take steps to curtail the marketing and selling of flavored products," he said.
In May, the FDA sent out 13 warning letters to e-cig makers and distributors for having "advertising that cause them to resemble kid-friendly food products, such as juice boxes, candy or cookies," some of them with cartoon-like imagery. The agency provided side-by-side image comparisons of "e-liquid" and popular food products.
In the September statement, Gottlieb said an additional 12 warning letters were sent out to companies that "advertise and sell the violative products" or illegally sell products to kids.
The FDA has also sent out some 131 civil money penalties.