The government of Donald Trump announced Wednesday that flavored electronic cigarettes would be banned for sale in the coming months, to thwart their growing success in American colleges and high schools.
"Many people think that vaping is great," said the US president in the Oval Office of the White House. "This is not great, it creates a lot of problems."
At the same time, the health authorities announced the forthcoming ban on flavored liquids, such as menthol, mango or strawberry, not because the flavors are considered harmful in themselves, but because they attract a generation of young people who become addicted to nicotine, erasing years of progress against cigarettes.
One in four high school students in the United States in 2019, according to an annual public survey, announced the Health Department with preliminary results - compared to one in five in 2017-2018.
Any taste other than tobacco taste will soon be removed from the market, said Health Secretary Alex Azar. The text will appear in "several weeks" and will enter into force 30 days later.
Tobacco-flavored products may continue to be sold but will require marketing authorization by May 2020.
"We intend to bring flavored e-cigarettes out of the market in order to reverse the alarming epidemic of e-cigarette use among young people," said Alex Azar.
Until now, these products were distributed in a relative laxity. The FDA now wants to strictly control the market.
The Minister of Health directly accused the Obama administration of leaving manufacturers free in the hope that smokers would start vaping instead, with vaping being considered a less harmful method, comparable to patches and nicotine gums.
- Mango, fruits, cucumber -
But it was not counting on their quick success among young people, who, especially in the early years, were heavily targeted by manufacturers on social networks, or even in schools.
Since cigarettes were once promoted as a sensual or manly product, e-cigarettes were presented as a cool and healthy alternative to cigarettes.
Apart from the problem of nicotine addiction, considered dangerous by the health authorities for brains still developing, a more spectacular crisis was born this summer.
450 people became seriously ill after vaping, and six died of acute lung diseases.
The sick cough, pant, do not breathe. Many are hospitalized in intensive care and connected to artificial respirators. Healthy young people found themselves in artificial comas.
It is not known which ingredient caused exactly the lung diseases.
In many cases, the liquids contained THC, the psychoactive substance of cannabis, but it is likely that this was one of many additives in liquids that damaged the lungs by being vaporized and inhaled. New York State has cited vitamin E oil as a possible cause, but this is not confirmed by the FDA.
The regulatory offensive against electronic cigarette companies is accelerating. The FDA agency had already imposed fines against shops selling to minors, and ordered manufacturers to withdraw from sale some flavored liquids.
She also threatened the market leader, Juul, with sanctions because of her past marketing practices aimed at young people. Last year, the company withdrew its flavored "pods" (mango, fruit, cream, cucumber ...) from store sales, restricting it to online sales in order to better control age.
Electronic cigarettes are prohibited for sale to minors in the United States, 18 or 21 years depending on the state. San Francisco is the only big city to see them completely banned.
Despite the pressure, Juul, a San Francisco startup that had three quarters of the US market last year, received a $ 13 billion investment last year from one of the largest tobacco companies in the world, Altria. The global market was estimated at $ 10 billion in 2018 by Grand View Research.
Juul has launched this year in France, as a "quality alternative to smoking."
© 2019 AFP