Guest Commentary | To Address Youth Vaping, FDA Must Get Serious About Enforcement
The rise of vaping among youth has become a pressing concern that policymakers at both the state and federal levels are working to address. While traditional cigarette smoking among teenagers is at an all-time low, the prevalence of teen vaping remains problematic. In Illinois alone, the use of e-cigarettes among high school seniors increased by 45% between 2016 and 2018.
It is crucial for the FDA and state regulators to tackle this issue head-on, but one crucial aspect seems to be missing from the conversation – enforcement. The reason why illegal vaping products, which are mostly targeted towards youths, continue to flood the market is due to a failure of enforcement.
Some efforts have been made on this front, such as former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot taking legal action against vaping manufacturers and retailers for deceptive advertising aimed at young people. The FDA has also issued warning letters and fines. However, despite these actions, illegal vaping products remain easily accessible.
According to a study by the Truth Initiative, the FDA’s warning letters between 2020 and 2021 did not cover e-cigarette brands with a large market share, nor did they address the most commonly used products by young people. This highlights the need for more effective enforcement measures.
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood has been vocal about this issue, pointing out that the FDA has the authority to regulate synthetic nicotine products but has yet to authorize any. Despite civil penalties and warning letters, many of these products continue to circulate in the market.
To effectively combat youth vaping, the FDA must prioritize enforcement measures that yield tangible results. The vaping market is ever-evolving, with new products and formulations constantly being introduced. Illicit manufacturers and distributors continually find ways to bypass regulations and restrictions.
Given this dynamic nature of the market, regulators must remain vigilant in their enforcement efforts to eliminate illegal vaping products from stores. Instead of diverting attention to banning other tobacco products used by legal adults, like menthol, the FDA should focus on enhancing the enforcement of current e-cigarette policies to address youth vaping comprehensively.
To achieve this, the FDA needs to foster greater coordination between federal, state, and local authorities. Adequate resources should be allocated to conduct inspections and effectively enforce regulations. Without a robust enforcement strategy, any additional bans on vaping products will be ineffective.
The prevention of nicotine addiction among the next generation should be the FDA’s top priority. It requires an all-hands-on-deck approach and a commitment to prioritize enforcement efforts. By doing so, the FDA can take meaningful steps towards curbing youth vaping and securing a healthier future for our young people.