E-Cigarette Crackdown Won't Let Up After Retail, Candy Warnings

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s crackdown on e-cigarettes that end up in the hands of underage smokers will continue for some time, the agency’s Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Monday.

On April 24, the FDA said it sent warnings to 40 retailers for selling Juul e-cigarettes to kids after a monthlong undercover sting operation. Last week, the FDA and Federal Trade Commission sent 13 letters to companies that make and sell the nicotine-containing liquids used in e-cigarettes, citing them for branding that resembles juice boxes, candy and cookie packages.

“We’re going to take more regulatory action similar to the ones we’ve taken,” Gottlieb said in an interview in Bloomberg’s offices in New York. “There’ll probably be some activity every week for a while now.”

E-cigarettes made by San Francisco-based Juul Labs Inc. have emerged as the newest craze in underage tobacco use. The closely held company’s smoking devices resemble a USB thumb drive and have worried regulators and parents because they aren’t easily identified as a tobacco product.

Gottlieb said the enforcement actions are part of a plan to go after companies or retailers marketing and selling tobacco products to children. Gottlieb has been criticized for pushing back by five years to 2022 a deadline for e-cigarette companies to submit applications for product clearance to the FDA.

The agency plans to release a guide this summer for tobacco companies that want to submit applications for products they want to market as less risky than smoking.

The application process “was never going to be the tool” the FDA used to address youth tobacco use, Gottlieb said. “It was always going to be enforcement.”

“We have a whole series of actions we’ve lined up,” he said.

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