E-cigarette usage high among Clark County teens as FDA cracks down on sales to minors

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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‘Juuling’ Trend Growing Among Teens, Raises Concerns

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

One of the leading brands of electronic cigarettes announced it will stop selling flavored pods in stores in an attempt to discourage teens from using the product.

JUUL Labs, which can be found at many Clark and Champaign County convenience stores, used to sell flavors such as cucumber, mango, cream and fruit. Critics of the brand accused them of marketing these products to teenagers.

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More than 40 percent of Clark County teenagers reported they have tried an e-cigarette within the last year, according to the 2017 Youth Behavior Risk survey conducted by the Clark County Combined Health District.

The same behavioral risk survey found more than 30 percent of Clark County teenagers smoked a regular cigarette.

The numbers are too high, Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said.

“The statistics show our youths believe that the e-cigarette is potentially less harmful,” Patterson said. “But the addiction to nicotine is more likely to lead to cigarette smoking and that’s why we still have policies trying to change that.”

JUUL’s announcement came just two days before the FDA planned to announce a ban on menthol and flavored e-cigarettes.

“I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes,” Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said in a statement Thursday.

Gottlieb called for steps to prevent the marketing of e-cigarettes directly to kids and online sales to minors. He also proposed beefing up measures to ensure convenience stores and some other retailers do not sell e-cigarettes in kid-friendly flavors such as cherry and vanilla. They could still be sold in vape shops or other businesses that do not admit minors.

Health advocates say a menthol ban would have greater impact on the health of Americans, but it would probably take years to put in place. The changes for e-cigarettes could kick in within a few months.

The proposed restrictions are aimed mainly at reducing smoking in kids.

JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns said in a statement Tuesday the company is committed to helping adults quit smoking by providing an alternative and never intended teenagers to use it.

“JUUL Labs is committed to improving the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers, with the ultimate goal of eliminating cigarettes,” the statement says. “While we have been working to solve that problem, another unintended and serious problem has developed — underage use of e-cigarettes, including JUUL.

“We don’t want anyone who doesn’t smoke, or already use nicotine, to use JUUL products,” he said. “We certainly don’t want youth using the product. It is bad for public health, and it is bad for our mission. JUUL Labs and FDA share a common goal — preventing youth from initiating on nicotine.”

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JUUL flavor pods can still be purchased at the company’s website, the statement says. The company says their website is secured.

“To prevent bulk shipments to those attempting to distribute to minors, online customers are strictly limited to two devices and 15 JUUL pod packages per month, and no more than 10 devices per year,” the statement says. “By year’s end, our age verification system will include additional protections, such as two-factor authentication, which verifies a user’s identity through their phone number, and then requires a code sent to that phone to create an account. We will also add a real-time photo requirement to match a user’s face against an uploaded I.D.”

Patterson said it is unclear what the long-term health effects can be from smoking JUULs because the product is new and studies haven’t been completed. He encourages everyone not to start smoking, period.

“Our adult smoking rate is one of highest in all of Ohio,” Patterson said. “It’s the one things that drives many of our health indicators in Clark County. We have high cancer, heart disease, lung disease rates and all of those can be attributed to smoking.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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