The Trump administration is preparing to ban flavored e-cigarettes as federal health officials call for restrictions to combat an outbreak of a mysterious lung disease that has sickened hundreds and killed at least six people, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration is currently finalizing its guidance to remove all non-tobacco flavors of e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol, from the market within 30 days. Companies might be able to reintroduce their flavors at a later date, so long as they submit a formal application and receive approval from the FDA.
Vaping companies such as Juul have been criticized for hooking children on e-cigarettes with flavors such as mango and creme. The surge in underage vaping, which U.S. health officials have labeled as an “epidemic,” is one of the reasons why they plan to ban them — at least until the FDA can thoroughly review their safety, Azar said after meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on the issue.
“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Azar said in a statement. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
It could take the FDA several weeks to develop the guidelines, Azar told reporters outside the White House with acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless.
Shares of Altria, which owns a 35% stake in e-cigarette company Juul, fell by less than 1%, while competitors PMI Group, Japan Tobacco, British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands all rose by between 1% and 3% in midday trading.
A Juul spokesman told CNBC on Wednesday, “We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products. We will fully comply with the final FDA policy when effective.”
Azar said they want to keep tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes on the market for adults who may be using them to quit smoking. The FDA has embraced e-cigarettes as a less harmful way for smokers to satisfy their nicotine addiction than smoking cigarettes. Skyrocketing numbers of minors started using the products, forcing the FDA to reverse course.
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