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CEO DATELINE – Vaping groups defend industry amid FDA crackdown

Sept. 13, 2018
By Walt Williams

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Two associations representing e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers are pushing back against a new effort by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reduce the number of teenagers who “vape.”

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced Wednesday his agency had issued fines and warnings to more than 1,300 retailers that had sold e-cigarettes to minors during an undercover law enforcement blitz during the summer. FDA also is requesting e-cigarette manufacturers to release plans about how they plan to keep their products out of kids’ hands.

“The FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products,” Gottlieb said in a statement. He warned the FDA may take steps to curb the marketing and selling of flavored products.

American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley responded to the commissioner’s comments in his own statements, saying the crackdown “is absolutely absurd and a perversion of how regulatory agencies are supposed to approach their work.” He also called the announcement “a gift to the tobacco industry” because it could drive up sales of traditional tobacco products.

“Vaping products are intended for use by adult smokers, not youth,” Conley said. “However, just like with marijuana and alcohol—usage rates of which are higher among teens than vaping products—it is impossible to stop all youth from experimenting.”

In a separate statement, Vapor Technology Association Executive Director Tony Abboud called said Gottlieb “offers little but lip service to FDA's so-called plans to support innovation and prioritize smoking cessation.”

“VTA is concerned that this administration may be the victim of overhyped media reports regarding the vapor industry and as a result may be reverting to Obama-era regulation that prevents any new innovation,” Abboud said.

At least one retail industry group also responded to the announcement. Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of government relations for the convenience-store association NACS, noted his group is a founder of an ID-check initiative called We Card.

 “We Card included an e-cigarette training module several years ago—before there were any regulations on these products—to train retailers to identify and avoid underage sales,” Beckwith said. “This FDA announcement serves as a reminder to all tobacco retailers to utilize training, such as We Card, to prohibit underage sales.”