US plans crackdown on e-cigarette firms citing 'epidemic' teen use

US government considers ban on flavored e-cigarettes over youth 'epidemic'

Tobacco stocks are rallying the most in a decade following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's announcement that it's cracking down on e-cigarettes in an effort to combat youth vaping. Since a year ago, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb and other federal officials have discussed e-cigarettes as a potential tool to ween adult smokers off cigarettes, although that benefit hasn't been proven. "This starts with the actions we're taking today to crack down on retail sales of e-cigarettes to minors", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

To that end, the FDA on Wednesday said it has asked Vuse, Blu, JUUL, MarkTen XL and Logic to submit plans within 60 days to describe how they will address widespread youth access and use of their products. They included chains such as 7-Eleven, Casey's General Store, Circle K, Cumberland Farms, Kwik Trip, Sheetz, Speedway, Tom Thumb and Wawa, as well as gas station banners like BP, Chevron, Citgo, Conoco, Exxon, Marathon, Mobil, Murphy USA, Phillips, RaceTrac, Shell, Sunoco, Texaco and Valero.

These levels of nicotine are highly addictive, particularly to the developing brains of children and teenagers. The products being targeted are: Juul, MarkTen by the Altria Group, the maker of Malboro cigarettes in the US, Blu by Fontem Ventures, Vuse, by British American Tobacco, the company that makes Camel cigarettes, and a device called Logic. "Hindsight, and the data that's now available to us, fully reveal these trends".

Juul Labs, which controls about 70% of the market, said in its statement that "appropriate flavors" play a role in adults changing their smoking habits, but added that they "are committed to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people".

Gottlieb echoed those concerns, saying he's anxious about the effects of nicotine in e-cigarettes on the developing brain, and that a proportion of teenagers who use the devices will end up on regular cigarettes. The "epidemic" perceived by the FDA is mainly an epidemic of e-cigarette experimentation, and even that trend seems to have reversed, judging from the latest NYTS results.

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If the plans fall short, the FDA could block sales of the products by enforcing a requirement that companies provide detailed design and health data about their products before marketing them.

However, there is little consensus about how to regulate the industry.

"Critically, FDA for the first time recognizes that it must be addressed by requiring that manufacturers remove flavored products from the market unless those products have been reviewed by FDA, alter current marketing practices, eliminate online sales and take significant steps to curtail illegal sales to kids", Myers said. Youth tobacco prevention is a priority for our companies.

Juul Labs said it would work with the FDA on its request and is committed to preventing underage use of its product. Big tobacco has yet to find a productive way to meaningfully compete against Juul, making the FDA's move a positive for the companies, according to Cowen analyst Vivien Azer.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a nicotine liquid into a vapor that can be inhaled. "And they [teens] have adopted it", Gould said.

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