Attorney General Bonta: To Address Youth Tobacco Use Crisis, FDA Must Ban New Flavored or High Nicotine Tobacco Products and Restrict Marketing

Wednesday, August 18, 2021
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OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a bipartisan coalition of 31 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take swift action to protect public health and address the youth tobacco use crisis by more effectively regulating e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products. As the FDA considers whether to grant Premarket Tobacco Product Applications for these new tobacco products – which would allow them to remain on the market – the attorneys general call on the agency to exercise its regulatory authority to eliminate youth-appealing flavors, limit nicotine levels, and restrict marketing. 

“Over the past decade, we’ve seen hundreds of companies skirt the regulatory process in order to cash in on the boom in e-cigarettes and oral nicotine products like nicotine pouches,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The fact is: these products were not reviewed by the FDA and should not be on the market. As it now considers whether to allow these products to continue to be sold, the FDA must condition approval on limiting the amount of nicotine in these products and ending youth marketing – and it must prevent the sale of new flavored tobacco products entirely. Our children’s lives may literally depend on it.”

Tobacco use is the number one preventable killer in the United States, resulting in more deaths than the number of people who die from alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murder, and suicides – combined. With the United States in the midst of a deadly respiratory pandemic, tobacco use is all the more dangerous. Yet every day, thousands of young people will use a tobacco product for the first time, and many of those tobacco products will be flavored. In California alone, 36.5 percent of high school students report using tobacco products. Of those, 86.4 percent report using a flavored product. New oral nicotine products threaten to further intensify the nation’s underage nicotine binge. Nicotine pouches are the fastest-growing nicotine category in convenience stores, growing by about 500% in the first 24 weeks of 2020. Nicotine is particularly harmful to the developing brain and is associated with numerous adverse physical outcomes such as nicotine poisoning and toxicity, as well as mental health and behavioral problems like major depressive disorder, academic problems, and addiction to other substances. 

In today's comment letter, the coalition urges the FDA to prohibit all flavors, including menthol, in e-cigarettes and other new nicotine-containing products. Flavors are a significant part of the appeal of these products to young people, with more than 80% of adolescents using e-cigarettes choosing non-tobacco-flavors. The coalition also calls on the FDA to limit the amount of nicotine in these products. Right now, the nicotine content in e-cigarettes sold by certain e-cigarette manufacturers in the United States is nearly 200% higher than the nicotine content allowed in the United Kingdom and European Union. Finally, the coalition pushes the FDA to impose restrictions on the marketing and advertising of these new tobacco products. Research shows that marketing influences decision-making by young people and is a significant reason why young people begin to use e-cigarettes.

Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Idaho, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia in filing the comment letter.

A copy of the comment letter can be found here.

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