Feds warn manufacturers about selling flavored e-cigarettes to minors

Products designed to help adults kick the habit may be encouraging addiction in kids. That’s the claim from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulators, who Wednesday, issued an ultimatum to San Francisco-based JUUL Labs, and four other makers of flavored vape products: Prove these types of smokes aren’t getting in the hands of children, or the federal government may pull the products from store shelves.

Officials say to date, the problem of underage use is at “epidemic proportions.” Some legal users of the products say the problem is bigger than e-cigarettes.

“I’ve got friends who’ve been smoking cigarettes since age 14. If you’re gonna worry about Juul and things of that nature, you’re gonna have to worry about all of it. Because they can’t sell it to 14 and 15 year olds. But they could go outside and get ahold of it just as easily,” said Lindsay Pineda, who smokes regularly.

But some parents of teenagers who could be lured into trying this tobacco delivery system say government intervention is needed.

“If they stop them from selling it, it’s gonna be a really good thing,” said Griselda Navarro, as she picked up her daughter at Burnett Middle School in San Jose.

In an emailed statement, JUUL Labs chief executive officer Kevin Burns wrote, “We are committed to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people. By working together, we believe we can help adult smokers while preventing access to minors.”

JUUL and four other makes of flavored tobacco products have 60 days to convince regulators they’re keeping their products out of the hands of kids. And the government will be watching. FDA officials says they’ll be monitoring manufacturer’s internet store fronts for straw purchases, and will file criminal charges if warranted.