Users Who Spiked
FDA CRACKS DOWN ON YOUTH VAPING
In the last two decades America has seen the rise of a controversial new cultural trend. The practice, commonly known as “vaping,” involves the use of a small electronic to vaporize chemicals (most typically nicotine) for inhalation. Billed as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, vaping has seen wild success across the world. But recently the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has been concerned about the increasing popularity of this largely unregulated new market.
The first consumer vapes hit the market in the early 2000’s and have since become widespread. They were initially sold as an aid to cessation of smoking (combustible) cigarettes. While many have reported success with these devices, little official research has been done to determine their effectiveness. In fact little research has been done on vaping in general; there is a debate as to whether they are any more healthy than traditional cigarettes. For the moment much of what is reported about vaping is anecdotal. But that has done little to prevent the emergence of a multi-billion dollar industry.
In recent years, many countries have begun the arduous proccess of legislating these relatively-new products. These laws tend to dictate when and where vapes can be used—for instance, banning them on flights or indoor public locations. These regulations are regional and vary from place to place. But heading into 2019 the FDA has been vocal about their intent on more widespread federal regulations.
Their primary concern is the popularity of vaping among teenagers. According to the FDA, one-in-five (20.8%) high schoolers vape with some degree of frequency. This is up from around 11% in 2017. That is a shocking increase in such a short period. The claim is that the current laws do little to prevent the underage from obtaining these products. Vaping products sold online can be obtained easily by just about anybody, with little to no age verification. Even more surprising is that vape companies seem to be partially complicit in this disturbing trend.
According to a November report by the FDA, over 80% of the vape products sold to minors were made by five companies. The products in question are the disposable variety commonly sold over the counter in convenience stores. These vapes (or e-cigs, as they are sometimes called) are the kind that most resemble traditional cigarettes. As of January 2019, the FDA has sent letters of warning to these companies, as well as many of the retail stores that sell their products.
Another concern is misleading packaging. Experts claim that the packaging of certain vape products is designed to mislead consumers. These products are often colorfully packaged and picture fruits and candy. They argue that the underaged may be able to acquire these products more easily, because the packaging appears to be marketed towards younger individuals.
This has put the vaping market in a tough place. Some of the companies most (ostensibly) responsible for this problem have pledged to spend millions of dollars in combatting underage vaping. But what is really to be done? Many companies of all kinds rely on their online markets—to shutdown all online vape sales would spell doom for the industry. But current age verification methods are easily circumvented. And evidently, e-cigs can be easily acquired at many retail locations as well.
At any rate, the Food & Drug Administration seems to be adamant on this issue. Judging by their statements in early 2019, they’ve made youth vaping a priority issue for this year. Without major change the future of e-cigs—and vape products in general—could be in an uncertain place.
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