The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced that it is regulating the sale of flavored tobacco products in an effort to reduce the population of young smokers.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said that concerns over flavored tobaccos are valid and have existed for years now. The agency is also aware that adding flavors to cigarettes have become an effective marketing strategy to attract kids and promote smoking habit at a young age.
"No child should use any tobacco products, including e-cigarette. At the same time, we're aware that certain flavors may help currently addicted adult smokers switch to potentially less harmful forms of nicotine-containing tobacco products," Gottlieb explained in a press statement.
"Youth consistently report product flavoring as a leading reason for using tobacco products," Gottlieb added.
Statistics have shown that people who started smoking flavored cigarette at a young age are more likely to continue their habit as they grow older. The percentage is lower in individuals who started smoking with non-flavored cigarettes.
Holding The Kids' Rein
The challenge now for FDA is to ensure that young smokers do not progress from experimenting to regularizing their cigarette use. Studies have shown that at least 90 percent of adult smokers began smoking at the age of 18.
Meanwhile, Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, cautioned the public on the use of flavored e-cigarettes or vape. He explained that prolonged vaping could lead to smoking nicotine and ultimately the use of tobacco.
"This tactic must be addressed and stopped, since it is clear that e-cigarettes are the gateway to smoking 'real' cigarettes," Horowitz said.
However, Gottlieb said that the focus of FDA's current campaign is toward combustible cigarettes such as those packaged with menthol and other flavors.
FDA's campaign is supported by a nonprofit tobacco control organization called Truth Initiative. CEO Robin Koval said that banning cigarettes in the market is the first step toward protecting the health of the young American population.
Tobacco treatment specialist Christine Fardellone shared the same sentiment, adding that most patients she treated expressed regret in smoking cigarettes early in their lives. Fardellone works at the Center for Tobacco Control in Northwell Health.
Moving forward, FDA is holding a public consultation on flavored tobacco products that will go on for at least three months. The agency said it is also committed to reviewing policies in lowering nicotine content to a minimum or a nonaddictive level.