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The FDA Wakes Up to the Danger of E-Cigarettes

Like a parent who’s just caught the kids vaping in the backyard, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been jolted into realizing that electronic cigarettes are a problem. The agency’s wake-up call came in the form of startling early data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey indicating that e-cigarette use among high school students is up more than 75 percent since last year, and among middle-schoolers by 50 percent.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has warned Juul and the other leading e-cigarette companies that he means business when he says they need to keep their devices out of teenagers’ hands. He accused the companies of so far treating the problem as a “public-relations challenge” rather than a serious legal and public-health concern.

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Like a parent who’s just caught the kids vaping in the backyard, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been jolted into realizing that electronic cigarettes are a problem. The agency’s wake-up call came in the form of startling early data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey indicating that e-cigarette use among high school students is up more than 75 percent since last year, and among middle-schoolers by 50 percent.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has warned Juul and the other leading e-cigarette companies that he means business when he says they need to keep their devices out of teenagers’ hands. He accused the companies of so far treating the problem as a “public-relations challenge” rather than a serious legal and public-health concern.

The FDA is considering new limits on e-cigarette marketing, and threatens to take candy-flavored vapes off the market altogether. This is a most welcome change. But it still amounts to only a warning. The agency has to follow up with actions to regulate the manufacture, marketing and sales of electronic cigarettes as rigorously as it does the old-fashioned, combustible kind.

Until now, the FDA’s approach to e-cigarettes has been too lenient. Last year, Gottlieb gave manufacturers an extra four years — until August 2022 — to apply for FDA approval, allowing all e-cigarettes that had been on the market as of August 2016 to continue to be sold with no controls on how they are made or marketed. Explaining this decision, Gottlieb pointed to the “potential benefits” of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit — even though their ability to do that is not established. On the contrary, as the commissioner now acknowledges, the evidence shows that teens who vape are much more likely than others to become smokers.

The agency has so far declined to impose any meaningful restrictions on candy flavorings or even the common-sense restrictions that are in place in European countries, such as limits on nicotine content. (Juuls in the U.K. contain only about a third as much nicotine as American Juuls have.) In the U.S., e-cigarettes are not even subject to the same constraints on TV and radio advertising that apply to regular cigarettes.

Gottlieb has given e-cigarette makers until mid-November to lay out plans to keep their products away from minors, including by refusing to sell to lax retailers and by eliminating candy flavors. But it would be a mistake to assume that voluntary actions will be enough, or that children are the only people at risk from e-cigarettes. The long-term health effects of vaping are uncertain for all users. Much more research is needed.

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‘Tobacco 21’ policy contemplated in Niagara County

Niagara County legislators are contemplating a local law that would ban sales of tobacco products to people younger than 21 years old.

At the legislature’s business meeting earlier this month, Lockport High School students, school nurses and local physicians urged lawmakers to adopt a “tobacco 21″ policy, arguing it would drastically reduce smoking rates and associated illness.

Dr. Andrew Hyland, head of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s tobacco control program, told legislators that one-third of cancer deaths result from cigarette smoking. According to the center, which strongly supports the proposed policy, over 95 percent of current adult smokers began smoking before age 21.

“Younger people are more susceptible to nicotine and more likely to get hooked when they try it,” Hyland said. “The tobacco 21 policy pushes that age a little bit further, (so that) fewer young people will get hooked.”

Lockport High School nurses and students argued that a tobacco 21 policy would leave teens with fewer social sources for tobacco.

According to a 2015 Institute of Medicine report, raising the age for tobacco sales to 21 would reduce youth smoking by 12 percent.

“We know that passing tobacco 21 will not completely erase the issue of tobacco use by young people, but we know it’s a huge step in the right direction,” said Nick Doxey, a junior at LHS and member of the Reality Check program.

Legislature Chairman Keith McNall said lawmakers will discuss a tobacco 21 policy in the coming weeks, calling it “very possible” the legislature could vote on such a resolution by its next monthly meeting Nov. 20.

“This is certainly a health concern. Smoking does hurt people, some tremendously,” McNall said. “I think our county will make the right decision.”

McNall would not say whether he personally supports a tobacco 21 policy, saying he wanted to do more research on the topic. However, he added, “I’m not opposed to anything that protects the people’s health.”

Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said he supports the proposal, saying research shows the average age of new smokers is just 13 in New York.

“The data shows if you can prevent someone from smoking while they’re a teenager, it significantly reduces the chances they’ll become a smoker,” Stapleton said.

Should it adopt a tobacco 21 policy, Niagara County would be far from alone. Twenty-three counties and cities across the state, including New York City, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties, have raised the age for tobacco sales.

The policy has proven popular beyond New York. Hyland said that over 350 localities and six states have raised the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21. And in those that have, he argued, retailers that sell tobacco have seen little impact.

. . .

Brooklyn Center City Council weighs raising tobacco sales age to 21

Brooklyn Center is poised to become the latest Minnesota city to raise the tobacco sales age to 21.

The City Council this month approved the first reading of the rule change and is expected to take a final vote on Nov. 13. If approved, the changes will take effect Dec. 21.

The measure would restrict the number of licensed tobacco retailers in the city to 15. There are now 22 tobacco retailers in town, according to City Clerk Barb Suciu.

“If someone does not renew [a license], then we are not going to open up another one,” she said. “The eventual goal is to get down to 15.”

In 2014, Brooklyn Center became the first city in Minnesota to set a minimum price for cigars in an effort to curb their appeal among young people.

. . .

Hartford Acts to Protect Kids, Save Lives by Raising Tobacco Age to 21

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
October 23, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Hartford City Council took bold action last night to protect kids from tobacco addiction and save lives by voting to raise the sale age of tobacco products in the city to 21. As the first city in Connecticut to raise the tobacco age to 21, Hartford is providing strong leadership in the fight against tobacco – the No. 1 preventable cause of death – and setting a terrific example for Connecticut and the nation. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help prevent young people from using tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free.

The Hartford vote adds momentum to the growing movement across the nation to raise the tobacco age to 21. Six states – California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii and Maine – have enacted Tobacco 21 laws, along with at least 350 localities, including New York City, Chicago, San Antonio, Boston, Cleveland, Minneapolis, both Kansas Cities and Washington, D.C. Many other states, counties and cities are considering such measures.

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Hartford Becomes First Municipality In State To Raise Tobacco Purchasing Age To 21

Hartford on Monday became the first municipality in the state to ban the sale of tobacco products to people younger than 21, a benchmark its leaders hope other Connecticut cities will emulate.

The city council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance that raises the legal age to purchase tobacco goods to 21, up from 18.

“We have an opportunity to be a leader,” Council President Glendowlyn Thames said. “We’ve all seen the research and the growing concerns about young people smoking and vaping. Raising the age requirement and giving individuals a longer time to mature and make decisions is appropriate.”

Hartford’s ordinance prohibits city businesses from selling products such as cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco or pipe tobacco to people younger than 21. It also bans the sale of vaping products, which contain nicotine, to those under 21.

About 240 establishments are licensed to sell tobacco products in Hartford, according to data from the state Department of Revenue Services.

The ordinance takes effect immediately, though enforcement will not begin until April. Fines of $250 may be levied for each violation, and the city could suspend tobacco licenses for store owners who flout the mandate.

Hartford’s health and human services department is responsible for performing at least two unannounced checks per retailer each year. Liany Arroyo, director of the department, said city workers routinely inspect Hartford establishments, and the tobacco compliance checks would not pose a problem. The city will work with area youth groups to conduct sting operations.

Hartford officials have pointed to a state survey that put the rate of smoking among adults (people 18 and older) in Hartford at 23.5 percent, higher than the statewide average of 15.3 percent. They did not have data that focused solely on people aged 18 to 20.

Advocates also cited a 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine that found raising the age limit to 21 helps prevent smoking among teens, particularly those aged 15 to 17.

Six states — California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii and Maine — have adopted similar rules, along with dozens of municipalities, including New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Antonio. Officials in nearby Central Falls, R.I., last year approved raising the legal age to 21.

“We know the tobacco industry uniquely targets young people to replace consumers dying from their products, and too many of our children are becoming addicted before they even have a chance to grow up,” said Bryte Johnson, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Connecticut. “But if kids don’t pick up a tobacco addiction during their vulnerable adolescent and teenage years, they’ll be less likely to do it when they’re 21.

“This ordinance has the potential to reduce smoking rates in Hartford and ensure our kids live longer, healthier lives.”

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