The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have taken major steps to curb the use of traditional and electronic cigarettes, on Thursday.
These steps, if endorsed over industry opposition, will meaningfully improve public health.
Most importantly, the FDA’s move to ban menthol cigarettes, has been a long overdue prohibition that could change the ways of millions of addicted smokers. For almost a decade now, the government has failed in taking actions against menthol, even as scientists have recorded its specific harms.
Menthol is not just a cigarette flavor. It’s a chemical compound that chills and freezes the throat, making it easier for new smokers which by 90% calculation are under 18 to start. More than half of smokers ages 12 to 17 use menthol cigarettes; among African-American youth the share is 70 percent.
Young people who start menthol early are most likely to become addicted and find it difficult to quit.
Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner announced that he will “advance” a new regulation to ban menthol in cigarettes and gradually begin a separate process to ban menthol and other flavored cigars.
Although these regulations can take years to write, finalize, before I can take effect.
The tobacco industry has a lot to lose if this should be effected. In 2016, more than a third of cigarettes sales were menthol. If history should be considered, the major companies will lobby their allies in Congress and the White House, and they can go to the length of seeking to stop the FDA with lawsuits.
Right in the face of a rush in youth vaping, Gottlieb also made known new restrictions on the sale of sweet-flavored e-cigarettes. Those products can only be sold only in retail outlets that limits purchase to anyone under 18 or keep the products in a separate age-restricted section.
This change expected to avoid sales at most gas stations and convenience stores. Tobacco and vape stores or any outlet, so long as it limits entrance to only adults, can continue to sell. For the Online sales section, stricter age verification will be needed.
If these vape stores trully restrict entrance is an open question, as the agency would need them to enforce this policy or what strictures will be added online. Truth be told, it won’t be easy.
The FDA commissioner is still trying to do everything possible by restricting sales of sweet-flavored e-cigarettes that are on demand to teenagers but stopping short of restricting mint, menthol and tobacco flavors so they can be available to adults using e-cigarettes to kick their deadly smoking habits.
Statistics released on Thursday, months early because the findings of a national survey were so troubling, underline how dangerous the vaping trend, characterized by the wildly popular Juul pods, has become. 80 percent high school students consumed e-Cigarretes this year, 48 percent in middle school when compared to a year earlier.
3.6 million middle and high school students have been vapping this year, with more than almost half of them doing it 20 times during the preceding month. This is way beyond testing.
Although vaping is less dangerous than smoking, there is nothing good about creating a new generation of nicotine addicts.
The FDA’s announcements are encouraging. Now comes the hard work of turning them into reality.