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The clock is ticking for e-cig companies to block underage users

The FDA is giving makers of e-cigarettes 60 days to come up with a more effective, forceful plan to combat underage use of the products. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb is yet again moving the goal posts for e-cig companies. He now considers underage use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) an epidemic, forcing the government to make a choice that we all knew was coming: save the smokers or save the kids? “I believe in the power of American ingenuity to solve a lot of problems, including this one,” said Gottlieb in a statement. “I’m deeply disturbed by the trends I’ve seen. I’m disturbed by an epidemic of nicotine use among teenagers. So, we’re at a crossroads today. It’s one where the opportunities from new innovations will be responsibly seized on right now, or perhaps lost forever.” E-cigarettes, like the Juul (which owns more than 70 percent of the market by revenue), offer smokers what some say is a healthier alternative to so-called “analog” cigarettes. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, according to the CDC, with 6 million deaths per year worldwide, and that number is expected to rise to 8 million by 2030. Public Health England says that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than combustible cigarettes. Addiction, which in this case is caused by nicotine, is always harmful, but not nearly as threatening as the harm caused by actual smoke from traditional cigarettes. On the spectrum of risk, e-cigarettes should seem like a huge win in the decades-long battle against smoking. But that was before teenagers started using e-cigarettes, including the Juul, at a surprisingly increasing rate. The FDA says more than 2 million middle and high school students were regular users of e-cigarettes last year. While nicotine isn’t all that harmful to a fully developed brain, the developing brain of a teenager is inordinately susceptible to addiction, and underage use of nicotine delivery systems may leave these users addicted to nicotine for life. This dilemma obviously leaves e-cig makers in a tough spot, but it is also a sticky situation for the FDA. In…

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