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FDA Takes Aggressive Steps to Curb Teen E-Cigarette Use

Parents often don't know their kids are using e-cigarettes because they're disguised as flash drives and pens. (
Parents often don't know their kids are using e-cigarettes because they're disguised as flash drives and pens. (
October 9, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The federal Food and Drug Administration is so concerned about the increased use of e-cigarettes among the nation's youth it has launched a campaign to educate school-age children about the dangers of vaping.

According to Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, the most recent data show 3 million school-age children - including more than 600,000 middle school students - have tried vaping. The number of adults who smoke cigarettes has been on the decline for decades, but Zeller said youths may not realize the use of e-cigarettes can be a gateway to harder drugs.

"Unlike cigarettes, where kids are way more aware of the risks, a whole bunch of teenagers are walking around thinking 'I'm not lighting up tobacco leaves. I'm not inhaling that smoke into my lungs. It's better for me. It's safer for me. It's less risky,’” Zeller said. “We have got to curb this growing epidemic."

The FDA recently issued more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers nationwide who illegally sold JUUL and other e-cigarette products to minors - including 21 stores in Albuquerque and 23 in New Mexico overall.

The FDA's campaign targets nearly 10.7 million young people aged 12-17 who have used e-cigarettes or are open to trying them. About 80 percent of youths polled said they do not see great risk or harm from regular use of e-cigarettes.

Zeller said that's why the government agency has created advertising for digital and social media sites popular among teens to spread the message.

"These numbers in the abstract for New Mexico and Albuquerque are deeply disturbing,” he said. “Retailers have a responsibility not to sell any tobacco products of any kind to kids."

The FDA told five major e-cigarette manufacturers, whose products frequently end up in the hands of kids, they have 60 days to develop plans describing how they will address the widespread youth access to and use of their products.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM