FDA Meets with Vaping Companies Regarding Tobacco 21, Self-Regulation
Five e-cigarette company representatives met with Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb recently to discuss youth vaping and moving the national purchase age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21. The companies, some of which favored support of Tobacco 21, are JUUL Labs, Altria Group (formerly Philip Morris), Reynolds American, Fontem Ventures and Japan Tobacco, according to the Washington Examiner.
Gottlieb, who recently threatened sales of e-cigarettes in convenience stores, said in a statement that the companies “acknowledged the serious public health consequences associated with youth use of tobacco products.” The five companies represent more than 97 percent of the market for closed-system e-cigs, and Gottlieb said that the companies also “acknowledged the role that flavored e-cigarette products ‘play in appealing to kids, as well as the role that flavored e-cigarettes can also play in helping adult smokers quit.’” He took the companies’ comments as constructive, and said that he would take them into consideration when deciding his next regulatory moves.
“We still believe that new innovations that don’t use combustion, such as many e-cigarettes, may offer an important opportunity for adults to transition off combustible tobacco,” he said further in the statement. “But, as I’ve said before, the current trends in youth use are not tolerable.”
Winston-Salem Journal reports that Reynolds American Inc., which represents 9.6 percent of the market share according to Nielsen data, confirmed that it was one of the five companies that supports Congress raising the national minimum age to 21. It says that its support will come further in a required submission to the FDA.
Reynolds spokesman Michael Shannon told the Journal, “Youth access to vapor products is a concerning issue, and we share (the commissioner’s) commitment that youth should not use e-cigarettes or any tobacco product. [We have] identified several specific actions that our companies would take, and additional regulatory proposals we believe that FDA should consider implementing across the industry.” [Reynolds] “agrees with the FDA that vapor products can play an important role for adult smokers looking for potentially less harmful alternatives to cigarettes. We understand the increase in youth vapor use is challenging the careful balance that FDA is pursuing both to provide adult smokers with alternatives and prevent youth use.”Altria Group also reportedly supports Tobacco 21, as well as much-talked-about Juul Labs. Six states — California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon — currently require Tobacco 21, along with at least 350 municipalities in the nation.
Tobacco 21 on a nationwide level, as well as other restrictions, could take an exorbitant amount of time to make it to Congress, so while Gottlieb says proposals from the manufacturers were “thoughtful,” this could lead to a sort of self-regulation on local and state levels.
“Even as the FDA builds a framework to mandate additional restrictions and actions to address these trends, we welcome voluntary steps by companies to address these concerns,” Gottlieb said. The Journal reports that suggestions manufacturers proposed to Gottlieb included:
- FDA restrict distribution of certain flavored products to channels with enhanced age verification processes
- FDA require certain products that are more appealing to kids to come off the market until these products receive premarket authorization from the agency
Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog told the Journal that she was “particularly struck by the commissioner’s collaborative tone toward the top tobacco manufacturers.”
The Verge reports that Gottlieb’s statement included pleas to the manufacturers to share responsibility to address this “public health crisis.” He asked the industry to “step up. We will continue to seek public input from a diverse set of stakeholders, including public health advocates and the manufacturers and retailers affected by these policies.”