FDA OKs first menthol e-cigs

WASHINGTON (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.

The decision lends new credibility to vaping companies’ longstanding claim that their products can help blunt the toll of smoking, which is blamed for 480,000 U.S. deaths annually due to cancer, lung disease and heart disease. E-cigarettes have been sold in the U.S. since 2007 but in recent years their potential benefits for smokers have been overshadowed by their use by adolescents and teens.

Parents and anti-tobacco groups immediately criticized the decision, which follows years of advocacy efforts 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. “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 FDA’s OK for vaping products. Like those products, two of the Njoy menthol varieties come as cartridges that plug into a reusable device that heats liquid nicotine, turning it into an inhalable aerosol. The other two Njoy menthol products are disposable e-cigarettes.

Njoy’s products accounted for less than 3% of U.S. e-cigarette sales in the past year, according to retail data from Nielsen. Vuse, owned by Reynolds American, and Juul control about 60% of the market, while hundreds of disposable brands account for the rest.

Most teens who vape use disposable e-cigarettes, including brands like Elf Bar, which come in flavors such as watermelon and blueberry ice.


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