FDA Plans to Sharply Restrict Sales of Flavored E-Cigarettes

The Food and Drug Administration plans to sharply restrict the sale of most flavored pod-style e-cigarettes, effectively pulling them from most convenience stores and gas stations and requiring strict age verification controls for online sales, according to senior FDA officials.

The actions, expected to be announced as early as next week, are aimed at limiting access to the e-cigarettes most popular among children, whose use is surging. Many e-cigarette companies, including market leader Juul Labs Inc., sell nicotine liquids with flavors like mango and cucumber.

Meanwhile, New York is planning to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes as early as next year.

The FDA’s new policy will take effect immediately. It will apply to the cartridge-style products like Juul that are popular among young people, not to the open tank-style systems that are used primarily by adults and sold in vape shops, the FDA officials said.

No retail outlet will be allowed to carry flavored, pod-style e-cigarettes unless it restricts minors from entering the store or creates an area inside the store that minors can’t enter, one of the senior officials said.

E-cigarette products in mint, menthol and tobacco flavors will be allowed to remain in all retail outlets for now but could be restricted later if youth use continues to increase, the officials said.

The new restrictions were earlier reported by the Washington Post.

The number of high-school students who use e-cigarettes has risen roughly 75% since last year to about three million, or 20% of high-school students, according to preliminary federal data. Meanwhile, use among middle-schoolers has increased nearly 50%.

In an interview Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said reversing a rising trend among children is a much more difficult task for a regulator than preventing the trend from happening in the first place.

“What I can’t tolerate is another year of this level of growth,” he said.

Dr. Gottlieb had warned in September that he might yank e-cigarettes off the market altogether. He asked Juul,

Altria Group

British American Tobacco

PLC and other major e-cigarette manufacturers to present convincing plans for reducing teen use or risk having their products banned. All have since met with the commissioner.

Juul, whose products are sold online and in convenience stores, gas stations and vape shops, accounted for 75% of the U.S. e-cigarette market for the four weeks ended Oct. 6, according to a Wells Fargo analysis of Nielsen data. That doesn’t include online sales.

Flavors other than tobacco, mint and menthol represent about 55% of Juul’s sales, analysts say. A Juul spokesman declined to comment.

Write to Jennifer Maloney at jennifer.maloney@wsj.com

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