Lawmakers Press Acting FDA Chief on Flavored Vapes

The acting US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock on Wednesday was pushed by members of the U.S. Congress to ban all flavored e-cigarettes, saying the sweet and fruity flavors are attracting too many children and teens.

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However, Woodcock would not assure lawmakers on whether the agency plans to ban or otherwise limit the sale of flavored vapes later this year. The agency has until September 9 to decide. When pressed multiple times over the course of the hearing, Woodcock would not commit to denying premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs) for flavored vaping products at this time, according to CNN.

“While I can’t predict the future, I think that might be likely. We also would have to, regardless, limit advertising and sales in targeting children and other practices,” Woodcock said, adding that the FDA will look at the scientific evidence. “As I have said already, I can’t prejudge the scientific,” she said, before being cut off.

During the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, Rep. Katie Porter asked if the FDA banned all flavored e-cigarettes, would less kids continue to vape, among those who have started. “If kids have the choices of any tasty flavor, they’re going to go for it, and I’m speaking to you from experience here as a mom of three school-aged kids,” Porter said. “If there were no watermelon snow cones, my kids are happy with blue raspberry. No blue raspberry? They’ll take mango. No mango? They’ll take strawberry. But if their only choice was a brown, tobacco-flavored snow cone, they are going to walk away.”

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, said after the hearing he felt Woodcock would do as Democratic members of Congress wished. “I am more optimistic than ever that Commissioner Woodcock will do the right thing and deny the premarket tobacco product applications (PMTA) for all flavored vaping products, and all high-nicotine vaping products,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement.

Woodcock also suggested at the hearing that e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs Inc. played a significant role in creating a youth vaping epidemic. When asked if Juul was “the e-cigarette company most responsible for creating this epidemic.” Woodcock replied that it does “appear” to be the case.

Woodcock would also not commit to removing menthol-flavored e-cigarette products from the US market, even though she said she believes menthol flavoring could heighten the effects of nicotine.

“I was so pleased that you banned menthol combustible cigarettes, which was the right thing to do,” Krishnamoorthi said during the hearing. “Will you pledge to clear the market of menthol e-cigarettes?”

“I can’t prejudge our decisions,” Woodcock replied.