FDA targets retail and online sales of e-cigarettes to minors

Calling the use of e-cigarettes among teens an “epidemic,” on Sept. 12 the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced an initiative to target retail and online sales of the addictive product to minors.

The FDA issued more than 1,300 warning letters and civil money penalty complaints to retailers who illegally sold electronic nicotine delivery system (e-cigarette) products to minors during a nationwide, undercover blitz of retailers this summer. In a September news release, the administration called it “the largest coordinated tobacco compliance effort in FDA’s history.”

Some e-cigarette devices can contain as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes, according to information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Tobacco, which contains nicotine, is harmful to overall and oral health, according to the American Dental Association’s consumer website, MouthHealthy.org. The ADA works with policy makers, public health leaders and others to help prevent oral cancer, pharyngeal cancer and other oral disease associated with tobacco use.

Quitting smoking is the only way to decrease the risk of tobacco-related health problems, and dentists are among the health care professionals who can help smokers quit by offering them information about treatment, according to ADA.org.

While FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., acknowledged in a September statement that e-cigarettes may help some adult smokers “transition off” more conventional tobacco products and onto products that “may not have the same level of risks associated with them,” the FDA did not anticipate “the extent of what’s now become of our biggest challenges. We didn’t predict what I now believe is an epidemic of e-cigarette use among teenagers.”

“E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous ‒ and dangerous ‒ trend among teens,” said Dr. Gottlieb in a news release. “The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end.”

At least one of the leading five manufacturers said in a statement that it “will work proactively with FDA” and is “committed to preventing underage use of our product.”

For more information about the FDA’s plan to tackle youth e-cigarette use, visit www.FDA.gov. For information about tobacco and oral health, visit MouthHealthy.org.

© 2018 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tobacco's greatest threat to your health may be its association with oral cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that:

  • About 90 percent of people with mouth cancer and some types of throat cancer have used tobacco. The risk of developing these cancers increases as people smoke or chew more often or for a longer time.

  • Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.

  • About 37 percent of patients who continue to smoke after cancer treatment will develop second cancers of the mouth, throat or larynx. While only 6 percent of people who quit smoking will develop these secondary cancers.

  • Smokeless tobacco has been linked to cancers of the cheek, gums and inner surface of the lips. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of these cancers by nearly 50 times.7