The FDA Crackdown on Teen Vaping Just Got Real

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on smoking, but not what is traditionally considered smoking. The agency is going after e-cigarette manufacturers, as teen smokers (vapers) have reached epidemic levels.

Overall, this crackdown by the FDA includes historic action against more than 1,300 retailers and five major manufacturers for their roles in perpetuating youth access to e-cigarettes.

As part of the agency’s Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan, and ongoing work to protect youth from the dangers of tobacco products, the FDA has taken a series of actions over the past several months to more immediately target the illegal sales of e-cigarettes to youth, as well as the kid-friendly marketing and appeal of these products.

One aspect of the agency’s plan entails increased enforcement. The more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers announced were part of a large-scale, undercover nationwide blitz to crack down on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors at both brick-and-mortar and online retailers, and it was conducted from June through the end of August. The vast majority of the violations were for the illegal sale of five e-cigarette products: Vuse, Blu, Juul, MarkTen XL and Logic. These five brands currently comprise over 97% of the U.S. market for e-cigarettes.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., further detailed:

We’re committed to the comprehensive approach to address addiction to nicotine that we announced last year. But at the same time, we see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, and we must adjust certain aspects of our comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger. This starts with the actions we’re taking today to crack down on retail sales of e-cigarettes to minors. We will also revisit our compliance policy that extended the dates for manufacturers of certain flavored e-cigarettes to submit applications for premarket authorization.

While the FDA is cracking down on some of these smaller vaping companies big tobacco seems content. Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE: MO) shares saw a gain of over 6% to $63.39 in Wednesday’s session, with a consensus analyst price target of $66.59 and a 52-week range of $53.91 to $74.38.