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New FDA ad campaign targets e-cigs

September 18, 2018

Continuing to take aim at the “epidemic” of e-cigarette smoking among young people, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched “The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign.

The campaign targets nearly 10.7 million youth, aged 12 to 17, who have used e-cigarettes or are open to trying them, and features hard-hitting advertising on digital and social media sites popular among teens, as well as placing posters with e-cigarette prevention messages in high schools across the nation.

“E-cigarettes have become an almost ubiquitous — and dangerous — trend among youth that we believe has reached epidemic proportions,” said FDA Dr. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a news release. “This troubling reality is prompting us to take even more forceful actions to stem this dangerous trend, including revisiting our compliance policy that extended the compliance dates for manufacturers of certain e-cigarettes, including flavored e-cigarettes, to submit applications for premarket authorization.”

In his statement, Gottlieb said the flavors are one component that makes e-cigarettes appealing to children.

“The mandate to reverse this trend in youth addiction to nicotine is one of my highest priorities. I’m employing every tool at my disposal in these efforts,” Gottlieb said in the release. “As a parent, a survivor of cancer, and someone entrusted with responsibilities to protect our nation’s kids from certain dangers — I won’t allow this rising youth use to continue on my watch.”

He said the aim of the new campaign is to “snap teens out of their ‘cost-free’ mentality regarding e-cigarette use.”

With its tagline, “Know the Real Cost of Vaping,” the campaign’s message is that using e-cigarettes, just like cigarettes, puts them at risk for addiction and other health consequences. The idea is to let young people know that nicotine can rewire the brain to crave more nicotine. Other messages highlight that e-cigarettes, among other things, can contain dangerous chemicals such as acrolein, a chemical that can cause irreversible lung damage; formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical; and toxic metal particles, like chromium, lead and nickel, which can be inhaled into the lungs.

The ads will run on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, Facebook and Instagram, as well as “The Real Cost” campaign website. Posters also will be placed in at least 10,000 high school bathrooms, and additional materials for students and educators will be distributed to schools. Gottlieb said most of the posters will be placed in high school bathrooms — a place where students are most likely to face pressure to use nicotine products.

The FDA has taken a series of actions over the past several months to target the illegal sales of e-cigarettes to youth, as well as the kid-friendly marketing and appeal of these products.

Last week, the FDA issued more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers who illegally sold JUUL and other e-cigarette products to minors during a nationwide, undercover blitz of brick-and-mortar and online stores this summer. The agency last week also issued letters to five major e-cigarette manufacturers whose products — JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen, blu e-cigs, and Logic — were sold to kids during the enforcement blitz asking them to submit to FDA within 60 days plans describing how they will address the widespread youth access and use of their products. If they fail to do so, the FDA could require these brands to remove some or all of their flavored products from the market until they meet all of their obligations under the law.

“The Real Cost” Youth E-Cigarette Prevention Campaign is a nearly $60 million effort funded by user fees collected from the tobacco industry, not by taxpayer dollars.

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