Right call on e-cigarettes – Scranton Times-Tribune

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School officials display a collection of vape pens confiscated from students in March at the Nevin Platt Middle School in Boulder, Colo. (New York Times File)

The Food and Drug Administration has taken an aggressive but correct approach to a delicate problem — preserving e-cigarettes as a valid means to help people stop smoking tobacco, while precluding their use by minors.

Federal law precludes the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, yet FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottleib said Wednesday that more than 2 million middle school and high school students regularly use them.

The devices are effective in fighting smoking because they satisfy smokers’ nicotine addiction without delivering the carcinogenic compounds produced by burning tobacco. They do not resolve the nicotine addiction, and therein lies the problem regarding e-cigarette use by teenagers — they run the risk of nicotine addiction. As Gottleib noted, the fluids used in e-cigarettes often contain higher amounts of nicotine than the amounts found in actual cigarettes.

Calling underage “vaping” an epidemic, Gott­leib announced an aggressive enforcement effort to stop sales to minors. It gave the four major manufacturers of devices and fluids used by minors 60 days to prove they can stop sales to minors. If they do not, the FDA will prohibit the sale of the flavored fluids, including varieties like bubble gum, that attract young users. The FDA also required manufacturers to stop the online sale of bulk quantities of the devices and liquids, to prevent them from being sold by “straw” purchasers.

Devices meant to help smokers ward off the worst physical effects of smoking should not have an ancillary market in addicting children to nicotine. The FDA should be as aggressive as the law allows.

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