The Trump administration announced Sept. 11 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is readying to ban flavored electronic cigarettes from the market in light of cases of sickness and death related to the devices.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 380 cases of lung disease and six deaths across the nation linked to the usage of e-cigarette products. The center said it has not identified the specific product or substance that is causing the illness.
“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,” said Alex Azar II, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 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.”
Steven Kelder, a professor at the UT Health Science Center at Houston, said he agreed with the administration’s plan due to how prevalent e-cigarette use is among youth. The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey found a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high schoolers and a 48% increase among middle schoolers between 2017 and 2018.
Kelder said because the human brain does not stop developing until the age of 25 or 26, young people get addicted to nicotine more easily and may switch over to traditional cigarettes and other drugs. Kelder said he recommended restrictions on advertising and raising prices for e-cigarette products to decrease the chances of youth using them.
“I know (high school) kids who won’t go to the bathroom anymore because they’re full of (people vaping),” Kelder said. “It’s a big and growing problem that deserves our attention.”
Kemal Whyte, owner of Austin Smoke and Vape, said he does not want children using e-cigarettes but disagrees with banning them from the market. He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report does not provide a link between e-cigarettes and cases of lung disease, and the bigger issue is young people getting their e-cigarette cartridges from sellers on the street. Whyte said counterfeit cartridges sold on the street often contain Vitamin E acetate, which according to The Washington Post, has been linked to rare cases of lipoid pneumonia in Utah. Whyte said efforts should be focused on preventing youth from smoking, educating policymakers about e-cigarette usage and best practices for protecting customers.
“Making a law against flavors isn’t going to stop (kids from smoking),” Whyte said. “Those same kids are the ones that were smoking cigarettes before, or their parents before them. Focus on where the problem is and focus on education because you banning flavors is not going to stop that kid from (vaping).”
Mary Ann Rodriguez, the interim medical director and health authority for Austin Public Health, said her department will soon focus on community outreach through youth training and social media to fight against the increase of e-cigarette usage in local areas.
“That’s what we’re planning to do just to dissuade everybody from using e-cigarettes if we can,” Rodriguez said.