FDA clears e-cigarettes for the first time, citing benefits for smokers


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The FDA claims that at least one popular brand of electronic cigarettes can remain on the market. This is the first authorization of its kind. It comes as the FDA is still deciding whether Juul and other e-cigarette products should be sold.

Joining us is Allison Aubrey from NPR. Hello, Allison.


MARTIN: Then explain the details of this FDA decision.

AUBREY: Of course. The FDA has made its way through a multitude of applications from electronic cigarette manufacturers. Remember, when these products first hit the market, there weren’t a lot of regulations. The agency therefore did some catching up. The FDA has now turned down a slew of claims from companies that make flavored products, such as apple crumble or Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, those flavors clearly designed to appeal to teens. But the agency decided to license a product line dubbed Vuse, marketed by RJ Reynolds Vapor Company. Now the main difference here – they are flavored with tobacco, so in theory they are less appealing to teenagers. Remember, the original rationale for e-cigarettes was that they were less harmful than smoking and could help adult smokers quit. Basically, the FDA said the company has submitted data to show that this is the case with these Vuse products.

MARTIN: Okay. So what was the reaction to this decision?

AUBREY: Well, there’s a lot of criticism. The American Lung Association says the FDA’s decision to allow Vuse products to market is problematic. They cite a recent poll that found Vuse to be the brand of choice for around 11% of high school vapes. Another concern is that these products have a high concentration of nicotine which is addictive.

I spoke to Matt Myers about the Tobacco Free Kids Campaign. He said he applauded the FDA for rejecting flavored products. But he criticized the agency for its decision to give Vuse the green light.

MATT MYERS: The FDA hasn’t paid enough attention to the real world experience with Vuse or the real world experience with products that offer this level of addiction. The most recent data shows that over 40% of children who use e-cigarettes are addicted.

AUBREY: And at a time when about 2 million kids report vaping, he says that’s a problem.

MARTIN: So the FDA has yet to determine if other brands of e-cigarettes, like Juul, can stay on the market, right? Are these decisions coming soon?

AUBREY: Yeah. A big question now is what the agency will do with menthol, which is very popular. Juul markets a minty product. And many health organizations have asked the FDA to deny Juul’s request.

This is Erika Sward from the American Lung Association.

ERIKA SWARD: We would oppose any Juul product remaining on the market. The story and their actions are clear, that they are interested in the addiction of a new generation. And no Juul product, whether tobacco or menthol flavored, should be allowed to remain on the market.

AUBREY: Now Juul argues that the company is focused on helping adult smokers quit. They don’t do teen marketing. The FDA could announce a decision at any time.

MARTIN: Allison Aubrey from NPR, thank you very much.

AUBREY: Thanks Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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