Electronic Cigarette Outbreak: The FDA still fails to protect young people, says the American Lung Association

A key factor in the vote was the Trump administration decision exempt menthol and tobacco e-cigarettes from the policy it developed this month to eliminate the cartridge-based e-cigarette flavor market. The final policy has been a shift since its September ad which would eliminate the market from all the flavors of electronic cigarettes except tobacco.

“Unfortunately, the federal government has repeatedly failed to take steps to protect children from flavored tobacco products,” says the report, citing studies showing that 97% of young e-cigarette users have used a flavored product in last month and 70% said that flavors were a key reason why they vaped.

However, not all signs were failures. In response to a new law which increased the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21 years, the association created a new category and for this the federal government received an A.

“We were surprised at how quickly federal law was enacted,” said Thomas Carr, lead author of the report and director of national policy for the American Lung Association. “We are definitely excited about the development.”

Carr however stressed the importance of regulating electronic cigarettes.

“It’s amazing how quickly youth vape has increased … We have a real crisis,” he said.

Youth vape continues to grow

Teenage tobacco use has been a key aspect of this year’s report. More than 6 million middle and high school students were currently using tobacco products in 2019, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey data issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The dramatic increase in juvenile use of electronic cigarettes / tobacco … is a real-world demonstration of the inability of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adequately control all tobacco products, especially electronic cigarettes,” states the report.

The United States officially raises the tobacco buying age to 21

According to the results of the National Youth Tobacco Survey cited in the report, 20.8% of high school students used electronic cigarettes in 2018. In 2019 it rose to 27.5%.

The FDA has authority to make major changes, but Lauren Lempert, a law and policy specialist from the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, said in an email. Lempert was not involved in the new relationship.

The agency is expected to “crack down on misleading advertising statements” and “to continue work that has begun but suddenly stopped in reducing the permitted level of nicotine in tobacco products,” he said.

The FDA did not specifically comment on the Lung Association report, but said in an email statement that “it will continue to take aggressive measures to ensure that all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, are not marketed or sold to children, “referring to Tobacco prevention plan for young people. Elements of the plan include conducting inspections of over one million retailers nationwide for the sale of tobacco products to minors and blocking outlets that repeatedly sell to minors over a period of time.

He also said that the Trump administration’s policy on flavored electronic cigarettes “is an important step” in preventing the use of electronic cigarettes by children.

Federal and state degrees

Last year, the association assessed the federal government and the FDA in four areas: how the FDA implemented a 2009 law that gave it authority over the production, marketing and sale of tobacco products; the effectiveness of the federal tobacco tax; quit smoking insurance coverage; and mass media campaigns run by the government.

For the new report, the association maintained these four areas and added the new minimum age increase category for tobacco purchase.

In 2019, over 6 million U.S. middle and high school students used tobacco products

Although the federal government has maintained grade A for media campaigns and received an A in the new minimum age category, it has received F for federal regulation and tobacco taxes and a D for smoking coverage.

The same five grades last year were reported for states: funding the tobacco program, smokeless air, tobacco taxes, access to cessation and “Tobacco 21.”

Carr has been particularly impressed by the efforts made by California and Maine. Both had funding for tobacco control programs close to the levels recommended by the CDC and balanced taxes on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

“They have been specimens that have excellent marks,” he said.

No state has received all As. Three states have received all F, however: Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Signs of hope

While the report documents “very negative news on the use of young people in electronic cigarettes,” it says that cigarette smoking rates for adults and young people are at record lows, according to the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey.

He also mentioned new construction efforts that could help reduce tobacco use, including the packs of cigarettes they will have graphic warning labels by June 2021.

While the United States has made progress in controlling tobacco use, Carr believes there is still much to be done.

“The report poses an important question: will 2020 be the year in which the federal government, states and communities … will prioritize public health over the tobacco industry?” Carr said.

According to the report, 2020 “can and must be”.

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, Katie Hunt, Kristen Rogers and Susan Scutti contributed to this report.

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