LC health professionals respond to potential FDA e-cigarette ban

Photograph by Lexie Boren

By Gelsey Plaza

According to a recent health and science article from CNBC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering banning online e-cigarette sales. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb dubbed youth use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic.” Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual National Youth Tobacco Survey show that the number of high school students who have used e-cigarettes during the previous 30 days has skyrocketed by about 75 percent. Furthermore, according to FDA statistics about e-cigarette use among U.S. youth, more than two million middle and high school students were current users of e-cigarettes in 2017.

In order to deter a new generation of teens addicted to nicotine, the FDA ordered five nicotine vaping brands — Juul, British American Tobacco’s Vuse, Altria’s MarkTen, Imperial Brands’ Blu E-cigs and Japan Tobacco’s Logic — to submit plans within 60 days describing how they will prevent teens from using their products. Commissioner Gottlieb is even threatening to pull flavored e-cigarettes off the market.

Dean of Spiritual Life and chairperson of the Student Health Advisory Board Mark Duntley is personally appalled by the way some companies are targeting their vaping products to teens. Thus, he too supports the FDA’s efforts to curtail these practices. This is Duntley’s own personal opinion and not coming from his position of the Office of Spiritual Life.

“Major tobacco companies have been notorious about their willingness to overlook and sometimes even deceive consumers about the risks of smoking, and now it seems they are adapting some of those same tactics with vaping,” Duntley said. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and the profit motive seems to be more important to some companies than is the health and well being of people.  Based on their past performance, I find it hard to trust major tobacco companies and applaud the efforts to protect American consumers, both young and old, from product lines and marketing schemes that can have long-term health and wellness consequences for millions.”

Duntley hopes companies will address these real concerns in sincere and substantive ways in order to protect children and teens from the potential health risks involved in vaping.

  Making online access to tobacco products more difficult won’t necessarily keep them out of the hands of those who are addicted to them, as there will undoubtedly be ways to get around these kinds of restrictions,” Duntley said. “But I know that we as a college are dedicated to helping students to stop smoking in the interest of promoting personal and community health.”

As Director of Student Health Services, Margaret Upton has seen the addictive nature and the harmful effects of nicotine on patients. Therefore, she agrees with restricting use to teens that are under age for usage of vaping products.

“Professionally, I am glad that the campus has gone tobacco nicotine free,” Upton said. “However, I recognize that quitting an addictive substance such as nicotine is very difficult. I hope that students are encouraged to get non-judgmental support from our office in their efforts to quit the addictive nature of nicotine.”

The Associate Director for Health Promotion Melissa Osmond also acknowledges that nicotine is highly addictive and consumption of tobacco products in any form carries serious health risks.

“As a public health professional, I support efforts by the FDA and other bodies to keep people, especially adolescents, from becoming addicted to nicotine in any form,” Osmond said.

Jack Levin ’19 shared his opinion on the potential federal ban on e-cigarettes.

“I would understand the ban, but I think it’s ridiculous,” Levin said. “I already feel so restricted as a 21+ student on campus, why add to it?”

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