The FDA has announced its newest public health campaign targeted at discouraging children’s use of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems.
This strategic education plan will include the expansion of the in-tact “The Real Cost” campaign, which includes educational information on the dangers of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and e-cigarettes for teenagers.
“While we pursue a policy that focuses on addressing the role that nicotine plays in keeping smokers addicted to combustible cigarettes, and to help move those who cannot quit nicotine altogether onto less harmful products, we will also continue to work vigorously to keep all tobacco products out of the hands of kids,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in the release.
In 2016, over 2 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes and ENDS, and those who did not currently use tobacco products used two or more within the past year. The expansion of “The Real Cost” campaign comes with the FDA’s recent comprehensive plan for tobacco regulation. Plans to include new digital materials that convey messages about the physical dangers associated with nicotine use, including the rewiring of the brain to increase susceptibility to future nicotine addiction, are included in said expansion.
The FDA notes that this is the first time that the use of e-cigarettes or other ENDS products by children and adolescents has been addressed.
“Educating youth about the dangers of tobacco products has been a cornerstone of our efforts to reduce the harms caused by these products,” Gottlieb said in the release. “Including e-cigarettes and other ENDS products in our prevention work not only makes sense, it reflects the troubling reality that they are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth.”
“The Real Cost” campaign was launched in 2014, and since then, it has prevented approximately 2,500 youth younger than 18 years from trying their first cigarette each day between 2014 and 2016. Although this campaign is an integral part of the FDA’s role in protecting public health, additional steps are currently in place to prevent future childhood and adolescent use of nicotine products. They stress their commitment to enforcing existing regulations regarding youth access to ENDS and banning the sale of tobacco to anyone under 18.
The organization recently announced its effort to reduce the toxicity of tobacco products, as well as their appeal and addictiveness. Specifically, the FDA is calling for assessment of battery safety, flavors and designs that appeal to youth, child-resistant packaging and product labeling that would prevent accidental liquid nicotine exposure. Public comment will be sought after on the role of flavors in enticing youth, and additional restrictions may be warranted on the sale and promotion of ENDS.
“The FDA has a multi-pronged effort to protect kids from using any nicotine-containing product, including e-cigarettes,” Mitch Zeller, JD, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in the release. “As we continue to learn more about these products and their relationship to youth, the agency will be better prepared to help address the issue of youth use through science-based educational efforts and regulatory policies that will ultimately pay the greatest dividends in reducing tobacco-related disease and death.” – by Katherine Bortz