Critics Slam FDA, 'Predatory Industry' on Menthol E-Cigs

Parent, anti-smoking groups say first product of its kind will continue to encourage teen vaping
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 22, 2024 8:30 AM CDT
FDA Gives Thumbs-Up to First Menthol E-Cigs
This image shows packaging for NJOY's menthol-flavored electronic cigarette product.   (NJOY via AP)

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the first menthol-flavored electronic cigarettes for adult smokers, acknowledging that vaping flavors can reduce the harms of traditional tobacco smoking. The FDA said it authorized four menthol e-cigarettes from NJOY, the vaping brand recently acquired by tobacco giant Altria, which also sells Marlboro cigarettes, per the AP. The decision lends new credibility to vaping companies' long-standing claim that their products can help blunt the toll of smoking, which is blamed for 480,000 US deaths annually due to cancer, lung disease, and heart disease. Parent groups and anti-tobacco advocates immediately criticized the decision, which comes after years of pushing regulators to keep menthol and other flavors that can appeal to teens off the market.

"This decision could mean we'll never be able to close the Pandora's box of the youth vaping epidemic," said Meredith Berkman, co-founder of Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes. "[The] FDA has once again failed American families by allowing a predatory industry to source its next generation of lifetime customers—America's children." Youth vaping has declined from all-time highs in recent years, with about 10% of high schoolers reporting e-cigarette use last year. Of those who vaped, 90% used flavors, including menthol. All the e-cigarettes previously authorized by the FDA have been tobacco, which isn't widely used by young people who vape. NJOY is one of only three companies that previously received the FDA's OK for vaping products.

Like those products, the menthol varieties come as cartridges that plug into a reusable device that heats liquid nicotine, turning it into an inhalable aerosol. Most teens who vape use disposable e-cigarettes, including brands like Elf Bar, which come in flavors such as watermelon and blueberry ice. Altria's data showed NJOY e-cigarettes helped smokers reduce their exposure to the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes, the FDA said. The agency stressed the products are neither safe nor "FDA approved," and that people who don't smoke shouldn't use them. "Based upon our rigorous scientific review, in this instance, the strength of evidence of benefits to adult smokers from completely switching to a less harmful product was sufficient to outweigh the risks to youth," said Matthew Farrelly of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

(More e-cigarettes stories.)

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