US President Donald Trump announced on 11 September that he has directed the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes. This comes after six people have died as a result of an unexplained lung illness, and more than 450 people across the US have been reported to be ill after using e-cigarettes. However, it is not known if there is actually a link between flavoured e-cigarettes and the illness.
Trump made the announcement during a meeting with the head of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, and the head of the FDA, Ned Sharpless. The FDA said in a statement that the details of the ban will be formalised and announced soon.
“Today president Trump announced that the Food and Drug Administration will be finalising guidance that removes all flavoured e-cigarettes from the marketplace,” said Azar in video announcement, adding that tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes will still remain available as they are sometimes used by people who are trying to quit smoking traditional cigarettes.
There is little scientific evidence that flavoured e-cigarettes are medically more dangerous than other e-cigarettes. Additionally, some of the people who have been ill also said their e-cigarettes contained cannabinoid products, such as THC, which could be to blame.
“It appears that cases were mainly seen in young users of e-cigarettes who bought bootlegged products illegally that contained cannabis ingredients,” Lion Shahab at University College London told the Science Media Centre. ““Flavours are therefore unlikely to be the cause of ‘vaping lung disease’ and banning them would not have prevented this recent outbreak.”
One of the biggest concerns with flavoured vaping products is that they are marketed to teens, said Azar. A recent FDA study found that vaping drastically increased among high school and middle school students between 2017 and 2018. “We’ve got to stop it or we’re going to have a whole generation addicted to nicotine,” said Azar.
I just announced with @POTUS and @FDACommissioner that we will be finalizing policies that will clear flavored e-cigarettes from the market. New provisional data show that youth use continues to rise rapidly, and we will not stand idly by.
— Secretary Alex Azar (@SecAzar) September 11, 2019
Some research has shown that regulating the flavours of e-cigarettes or the ability to modify vaping devices could lead to people smoking more traditional cigarettes.
This ban is in line with actions taken by the cities of San Francisco, California and Boulder, Colorado, as well as the state of Michigan – which have all banned flavoured e-cigarettes. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced that he will advance legislation to ban flavoured e-cigarettes. But it may not address the epidemic of mysterious lung disease that we’re currently seeing.
Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the FDA, tweeted that, “most of these severe cases, so far, appear to be symptoms that can occur when either oils or lipid-containing substances enter lungs. This points to illegal products that are being cut with dangerous chemicals as a culprit.”
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