The expected FDA crackdown on a youth vaping "epidemic" is on the horizon, with the New York Times and Washington Post reporting that most flavoured e-cigarettes will be banned from convenience stores and gas stations across the country as early as next week. Menthol and mint flavors will be exempt, but all other prepackaged flavor pods will be confined to tobacco and vape shops, which are viewed as more stringent on verifying age requirements. The new measures will include age verifications on online sales. The Post predicts a "significant impact" on an industry considered vital for major tobacco companies now that US smoking rates are at an all-time low.
The move is likely to be seen as too harsh among those who believe flavored e-cigarettes help adults quit traditional cigarettes. But while "we don't want to foreclose the opportunity for adults to get these products … we now have evidence that a new generation is being addicted to nicotine, and we can't tolerate that," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told the Post before the plan was settled. E-cigarette use, which rose 77% among high schoolers and 50% among middle schoolers in 2018, has been linked to a switch to regular cigarettes, while other long-term health effects aren't yet known. The FDA previously gave major e-cigarette makers 60 days to prove they could keep their products out of youth hands. That period ends this weekend. (One maker has stopped selling flavored e-cigs altogether.)