FDA Commissioner Calls E-Cigarettes Usage an "Epidemic"

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. The FDA recently announced critical steps to address the epidemic of e-cigarette usage among youth.

KOLR10 spoke with an officer at Truth Initiative, a nation-wide tobacco control organization.

The FDA is warning retailers to stop selling e-cigarette products to minors both in-store and online.

"E-cigarette use just from 2017-2018 increased by 75% that means over 17% of high school students are telling people in a survey that they're using e-cigarettes," said Dave Dobbins, the chief operating officer at Truth Initiative, "that's a dramatic rise. As a matter of fact, commissioner Gottlieb used the word 'epidemic'."

Dobbins is concerned about the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes.

"And increasingly, e-cigarettes are delivering more and more nicotine faster and faster," Dobbins explained.

He said people who start using e-cigarettes are four times more likely to switch over to smoking cigarettes in the future.

"If you're a kid who never used a cigarette, and you start using e-cigarettes and then progress to smoking, that's something that's really really bad for you," Dobbins said.

He's especially worried about JUULs, a specific brand of e-cigarettes.

"JUUL is sort of a witches brew," Dobbins said, "one, it's one of the most addictive products on the market, it delivers tons of nicotine, and it does it in a way that gets to your brain really fast. A lot of kids don't even know this. We asked, two-thirds of them don't even know there's nicotine in it."

Dobbins is also concerned about JUUL's size and shape. 

It's very small and easy to hide, it looks like a big USB drive, and it doesn't produce a lot of vapor when you use it.

"It's the responsibility of government at all levels to protect kids," said Dobbins, "we can't do that by putting a generation of kids at risk of addiction. That's not how we do things in America."

The FDA also issued 12 warning letters to online retailers selling misleading e-liquids that look like kid-friendly food like candy and cookies.

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