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American Association for Cancer Research Applauds FDA for Actions to Protect Children from Tobacco-related Disease

New restrictions aimed at halting and reversing the alarming rise in the use of e-cigarettes among youth

WASHINGTON, D.C. ” The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) commends the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its actions to limit access to the e-cigarettes most popular among children.

The use of e-cigarettes by youth has surged to epidemic proportions across the country, according to data released Thursday from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

In fact, the number of high school students who use e-cigarettes has risen 78 percent since last year to about 3.6 million, or 20 percent of high school students, according to preliminary federal data. Meanwhile, use among middle schoolers has increased 48 percent.

On Thursday, the FDA announced that it will limit most e-cigarette sales to age-restricted, in-person locations. Additionally, the FDA plans to require heightened age-verification measures for online sales to try to ensure that minors are not able to buy flavored e-cigarette pods.

The FDA is also proposing a ban on flavors in cigars and a ban on menthol cigarettes.

“The AACR is strongly in favor of these actions by the FDA, which will help keep e-cigarettes out of kids’ hands,” said AACR Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc). “Preventing youth addiction to nicotine is paramount, and we strongly encourage our policymakers in Congress and at the FDA to build on these actions to stop teenagers from getting hooked on e-cigarettes. Ultimately, we hope our policymakers will go even further, banning the sale of e-cigarettes in retail stores and gas stations.”

“Nicotine, which is a major ingredient in e-cigarettes, is a highly addictive substance, and much is unknown about the health impacts of medium- and long-term e-cigarette use,” said Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, chief of medical oncology at the Yale Cancer Center and chair of the AACR Tobacco and Cancer Subcommittee. “The AACR shares the FDA’s goal of preventing a new generation from becoming addicted to nicotine, and we remain committed to continuing to work with the FDA and Congress to prevent e-cigarettes from being used by children and non-smokers.”

While the merits of electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) as smoking cessation tools remain the subject of intense research and discussion, the AACR and other organizations have become concerned with the rising popularity of these devices, particularly among underage youth, in the absence of hard data demonstrating their safety. The members of the AACR’s Tobacco and Cancer Subcommittee, chaired by Herbst, have been advocating for additional peer-reviewed research on the use and composition of these products and for additional regulatory actions to keep tobacco products away from children.

“Youth use of e-cigarettes is a major health care problem and the AACR stands ready to support the FDA in its efforts to prevent kids from using these products,” said AACR President Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, deputy director of The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University. “While we recognize the potential concern about restricting access to alternatives for adults who are trying to quit smoking, we believe these measures by the FDA are necessary during this time of skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes by youth.”

On July 18, 2018, the AACR hosted a congressional briefing titled “E-cigarettes: Striking a Balance Between Preventing Youth Nicotine Addiction and Helping Current Smokers Quit Combustible Cigarettes.” The panelists, including Herbst, presented the latest available science pertaining to the effects and content of e-cigarettes and suggested approaches to halting the concerning rise in youth vaping and nicotine addiction.