NACS CEO: FDA's Proposed E-Cigarette Policy Will Worsen Youth Use

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NACS CEO: FDA's Proposed E-Cigarette Policy Will Worsen Youth Use

Someone using an electronic cigarette

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Looking at the numbers, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) proposal to take electronic cigarettes out of convenience stores doesn't add up. That's according to Hank Armour, CEO of NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

The agency's plan is aimed at keeping e-cigarettes and vapor products out of the hands of minors. However, in an op-ed piece to CNBC, Armour said the proposal is counter-productive. Instead, "it will make youth e-cigarette use and addiction worse, not better."

In November, Scott Gottlieb, who was commissioner of the FDA at the time, said the agency would revisit its policy for electronic nicotine devices (ENDs) and explore the possibility of moving sales of flavored ENDs products — other than tobacco, mint and menthol — to age-restricted, in-person locations, and if sold online, under heightened practices for age verification, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

"The FDA proposed that the flavored e-cigarettes it targets should only be sold in adult-only stores like vape shops and tobacco stores or on the internet. The flawed assumption central to FDA's proposal is that young people primarily get e-cigarettes from convenience stores — where minors are allowed and most e-cigarettes are sold. That may have some superficial appeal. But research shows that’s just not true," Armour wrote in the op-ed.

Citing an August 2018 study "How Do Adolescents Get Their E-Cigarettes and Other Electronic Vaping Devices?" published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, he pointed out that only 31.1 percent of minors who obtained e-cigarettes bought them from a retailer.

"The counterproductive nature of the FDA's policy becomes clear when examining the data on those retail sales. Almost a third of minors who buy e-cigarettes from a retailer purchased them online, 22.3 percent bought them in vape shops and 16.4 percent purchased them in tobacco stores. Altogether, those three types of outlets account for nearly 70 percent of the retail purchases of e-cigarettes by minors," Armour wrote.

"The same study showed that only 5.6 percent of minors who bought e-cigarettes at a retail location purchased them in convenience stores, accounting for less than 2 percent of all retail sales to minors," he added.

Keeping the products away from underage users requires a multi-faceted, even-handed approach, according to Armour.

"To make a positive difference, the FDA should actively enforce the law against sales to minors. Based on the data, enforcement should be focused on digital sales, vape shops and tobacco stores first — precisely the locations where kids would be pushed under FDA's proposed policy," he said.