FDA declares teen vaping an epidemic; manufacturers must produce plan to stop underage use

The use of e-cigarettes has become an "epidemic" among children, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday along with aggressive steps to reverse the trend.

"I use the word epidemic with great care," said FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. "E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous -- and dangerous -- trend among teens. The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we're seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end. It's simply not tolerable."

Gottlieb announced the agency sent 1,100 warning letters to stores for the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18, and issued 131 fines to stores that continued to violate the restrictions on sales to minors.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who introduced a bill last month to regulate e-cigarette flavors, said it's about time the FDA took steps.

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The dangers of e-cigarettes use in teens is a health concern for some local school administrators as they see more kids taking up the habit.

"They are dramatically increasing their reach into our kids' lives and it's got to come to an end," Durbin said.

In a statement, the FDA said its giving the major manufacturers of flavored electronic cigarettes 60 days to submit their plan to prevent youth vaping. If the agency doesn't think it goes far enough, it can order them to halt production and order products off the store shelves.

According to the 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey released in June, more than 2 million middle school, high school and college students use the battery-powered devices to heat liquid-based nicotine into an inhale vapor.

Nearly, 12 percent of high school students and 3 percent of middle school students have used the device in the past 30 days.

School officials also say that vaping is a problem that they are trying to tackle.

The FDA's new approach comes as doctors continue to warn of the dangers of youth vaping.

The FDA targeted more than 1,300 online and brick-and-mortar retailers with warning letters or civil penalties for selling to minors. About 130 of the retailers will have to pay penalties.

The makers of Juul, which is popular among teens, along with four other brands make up more than 97 percent of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes.

The CEO issues a statement that said, in part: "Juul labs will work proactively with FDA in response to its request. We are committed to preventing underage use of our product."

In Chicago, you can't buy the e-cigarette products unless you're over 21.

Joe Protopappas, of Smoque Vapers, said the crackdown and not age restriction could affect his business.

"As far as that goes we don't have a problem, but if they're trying to take products off the market like the Juul, that might affect us," Protopappas said.
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