Despite the constant warnings that increased experimentation with e-cigarettes would lead to more smoking, consumption of conventional cigarettes by teenagers stubbornly continues to decline, reaching a record low a year ago in the Monitoring the Future Study, which began in 1975. It was "the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the FDA's history", according to the agency. "In enabling a path for e-cigarettes to offer a potentially lower risk alternative for adult smokers", he says, "we won't allow the current trends in youth access and use to continue, even if it means putting limits in place that reduce adult uptake of these products".
The FDA set a 60-day deadline for five major tobacco manufacturers to provide a plan for mitigating youth sales, or the agency will pull them out of the market. Teen use of electronic cigarettes is growing-especially the Juul device, which is considered so fetch in many underage circles that it has reached an "epidemic proportion", writes the FDA, according to the New York Times. "It's now clear to me, that in closing the on-ramp to kids, we're going to have to narrow the off-ramp for adults who want to migrate off combustible tobacco and onto e-cigs".
"Far too many teens are being introduced at an early age to e-cigarettes", said Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius in the release.
"I have grown increasingly concerned around what we see as rising youth use in these products, and I'm disappointed in the actions the companies have taken to try to address this", Gottlieb said at a press briefing.
But health officials have warned nicotine in e-cigarettes is harmful to developing brains. He said in June tobacco companies "better step up and step up soon" but he didn't divulge what consequences the industry could face - until now.
The appeal of e-cigarettes to teens is widespread and has raised alarms in other countries, including the UK. The companies sell Vuse, Blu, Juul, MarkTen XL, and Logic e-cigarette brands, which account for 97 percent of US e-cigarette sales, according to FDA. But it also sent letters to five leading manufacturers of "electronic nicotine delivery systems" (ENDS), insisting that they do more to keep their products away from teenagers.
The FDA discovered that top-selling brands like JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen XL, blu e-cigs, and Logic were popular among minors.
In a statement, VTA Executive Director Tony Abboud asked: "Does FDA really want millions of Americans to return to smoking cigarettes?" But spokeswoman Victoria Davis said "appropriate flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch".
And some of the retailers that received warning letters are still advertising and selling these products, he said.
The FDA is in the process of rolling out a sweeping anti-smoking initiative created to make it easier for smokers to quit by cutting the nicotine levels in regular cigarettes.
"In my view, they treated these issues like a public relations challenge rather than seriously considering their legal obligations, the public health mandate and the existential threat to these products, and as they did, these risks have mounted", Gottlieb said.
"I'm here to tell them today that this prior approach is over", he said.