For months now, the FDA has been running full steam towards effective regulation of under-age vaping. The organisation is working to cut into what it calls “an epidemic of under-age vaping”. The agency is targeting online retail websites and specialised shops. However this focus on online sales may turn out to be in vain.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has repeatedly demonstrated that he is determined to limit the sale of electronic cigarettes generally. The goal is simple, to prevent the access of under-age consumers to products with high nicotine contents, which the FDA considers a gateway to smoking tobacco. Restricting online sales of e-cig materials is therefore the new focus of the organisation.
A study programme known as the National Youth Tobacco Survey calculated in 2017 that this “danger” was over-estimated and over-stated. Only 5 % of under-age vaping enthusiasts rely on websites to purchase their vaping products. This figure climbs to just shy of 12 % for specialised vape shops.
Should online vape shops be heavily restricted?
The study results seem to conclude that the FDA is chasing a non-existent crisis by accusing online vape retailers and specialised vape shops. A survey in 2014 and 2015 in Connecticut seems to point towards the same conclusions. 10% of young vapers in the sample population sourced their gear online, and 15 % purchased from vape shops.
The National Youth Tobacco Survey figures pointed to another culprit: it seems minors obtain their material from “a friend”. It is therefore over-18s in the social circles and families of young consumers who tend to lend them e-cig materials in most cases (64 %). With this in mind, awareness campaigns on the subject of prevention would be more effective than targeting legitimate businesses.
Based on this data, will the FDA rethink its policy on the restriction of online and specialised vape shops? Given the FDA’s demonization of electronic cigarettes, nothing is certain.