The FDA has approved the marketing of a range of RJ Reynolds Vapor Company e-cigarettes. The tobacco-flavored products can help adults stop smoking regular tobacco cigarettes.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The FDA has given the maker of a popular e-cigarette brand the green light to stay in the market. It is the first of its kind and the FDA is still evaluating whether JUUL and other e-cigarette products can be sold. MediaFrolic’s Allison Aubrey joins us with more now.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Hello.
CHANG: All right, so let’s start with the brand that got the green light for the time being. Tell us more about what the FDA has to say about this decision.
AUBREY: Well, the agency has approved the marketing of three products. They are made by RJ Reynolds Vapor Company. They are sold under the brand name Vuse. These are e-cigarettes that are sold with e-liquid pods and replacement cartridges. Basically, the FDA said the company presented data to show that the tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes could benefit addicted adult smokers and help them quit smoking. This was the original rationale for e-cigarettes – that they were less harmful than smoking and a way to reduce the risks, and the FDA is basically saying that this product is successful.
CHANG: But the thing is, anti-smoking advocates have urged the FDA to completely remove flavored e-cigarettes, including tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, not just sweet-flavored ones, right?
AUBREY: Well I think proponents’ big goal was getting e-cigarettes away from teenagers, right? There is indecision as to whether e-cigarettes will help adult smokers quit smoking. There was kind of evidence both ways. Regarding those who fought, some say it is a positive move that the FDA has turned down marketing proposals for some of the flavored products. And they say today’s decision is worrying as tobacco-flavored Vuse e-cigarettes have become increasingly popular with teenagers. A recent survey found that around 2 million middle and high school children use e-cigarettes. Of them, about 11% said they use Vuse and that this is their preferred brand. The FDA says it researched the likelihood of young people using this brand and found that the potential benefits for smokers of reducing their cigarette consumption outweighs the risk for teenagers.
CHANG: Okay. Now, as mentioned earlier, the FDA is still debating whether other brands of e-cigarettes can stay in the market, including JUUL. Are they likely to come to a decision on all of that soon, do you think?
AUBREY: Yes. I mean, e-cigarette manufacturers have known for a while that the FDA is reviewing their products to see if they can stay in the market. It went slowly, so interest groups sued. Bottom Line – The agency has met this court imposed deadline to take some decisions and they say they are working through them ASAP. They have already turned down applications for companies that market flavors like apple crumble or cinnamon toast crunch. These are clearly aimed at addressing children or young people. A big question now is what is the agency going to do with menthol, which is very popular. JUUL markets a menthol product, and many health organizations have asked the FDA to simply reject JUUL’s application. This is Erika Sward from the American Lung Association.
ERIKA SWARD: We are against a JUUL product remaining on the market. The story and its actions show that they are interested in getting a new generation addicted. And no, your product, be it tobacco or menthol, should be allowed to remain on the market.
AUBREY: Now JUUL is claiming that they are focused on helping adult smokers stop smoking and that they are not marketing to teenagers. There is evidence that the brand is now less popular with children. The latest poll was more likely to find that around 10-5% of teenagers who vape use JUUL as their favorite brand. I would say the FDA could really make a decision anytime now.
CHANG: This is Allison Aubrey from MediaFrolic.
AUBREY: Thank you very much.
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