FDA calls e-cigarettes 'an epidemic' among minors, cracks down on retailers

iStock/Thinkstock (WASHINGTON) — The use of e-cigarettes has become an “epidemic” among children, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which said it is taking steps to curtail their use.

Fines and warning letters have been issued to e-cigarette retailers, including those that “illegally” sold the popular brand Juul to minors, the FDA announced Wednesday.

The government targeted the retailers as a result of an “undercover blitz” of both physical stores and online retailers, the FDA said, adding that more than 1,300 letters and fines were issued.

“We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a news release from the agency.

“Certain flavors” of the e-cigarettes have contributed to the uptick in youth purchases of the products, he added.

“While we remain committed to advancing policies that promote the potential of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes, that work can’t come at the expense of kids. We cannot allow a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine,” he said in the statement.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar released a statement in support of the decision.

“No child should be using any tobacco or nicotine-containing product,” Azar said in a statement.

“We commend the FDA for the critical, immediate and historic action to address the sale and marketing of these products to kids, while it examines additional aggressive steps to stem the troubling trend of their use among youth,” the statement reads.

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