MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is calling the rising use of e-cigarettes by teenagers a “public health tragedy.” Sometime this week, the agency plans to require strict limits on the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations across the country. However, the products will continue to be sold in vape and tobacco shops where you must be at least 18-years-old to enter the store.
This move comes in response to the alarming increase in vaping by minors. Government data shows e-cigarette use rose 77 percent among high schoolers in 2018. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb is calling this an "epidemic” of vaping by teens and young children.
Dr. Justin Pandoo with Conway Medical Center said there's many misconceptions with e-cigarettes. He said although the devices are marketed as a "safer" alternative to smoking cigarettes, you can still have similar dangerous effects.
“You still have some lung diseases, lung pathology and stuff that damages and destroys your lung tissues that’s permanent. The major issue that I think is that it’s an increased use amongst teenagers and high school kids and even in middle aged schools, the risk is going up if you watch the Surgeon General’s website, and that’s problematic because if that’s the case, then there’s going to be more people that will eventually turn to smoking. And even though the intended use is to decrease smoking effects, they’ve actually found in studies that people either remain on it or actually have an increased amount of use and end up going towards cigarettes, which is actually pretty dangerous especially because there’s more and more young people on it,” said Dr. Pandoo.
The only exception to the flavored-products ban involves mint and menthol e-cigarette products. The FDA says it will continue to allow sales of those flavors because agency doesn’t want to give traditional cigarettes an advantage over e-cigarettes. But officials say the FDA may extend the sales restriction to those flavors even if teen vaping doesn’t decline. Doctors say not enough research has been done about the potential health effects of e-cigarettes.
“You’re comparing two evils. One is definitely a little bit better than the other, but it’s still not beneficial. And again, the flavored cigarettes - the flavored e-cigarettes - have increased risk of permanent lung disease. Future studies could even show more cancer, it could have a different part or a different relation, more oxygen requirements. It’s unfortunate. And you don’t want the young people to be using that. You want the rates to be decreasing and people using them less. It’s not an instead, it should be trying to cut off and not use them at all, so that’s probably the push I think would be best for everybody and trying to cut them back completely,” said Dr. Pandoo.
In addition to these changes, the FDA also plans to incorporate an age-verification requirement for purchases made online. Officials also said other steps will be taken if teen vaping use doesn’t come down quickly.