In a speech to FDA employees, Gottlieb said that rapid spike in teen use, emerging sales trends and concerns among parents and teachers convinced him that underage use of e-cigarettes has become a full-blown crisis that must be forcefully addressed.
Last year, the FDA announced that it would delay regulations that could have halted the sales of many e-cigarettes. "These five brands now comprise over 97 percent of the USA market for e-cigarettes", the FDA said. Those products could include e-cigarettes, though the FDA has not given any company permission to advertise its device as a quit-smoking aid.
The vast majority of the retail locations cited were convenience stores. They're generally considered a less risky alternative to regular cigarettes.
The action is part of the FDA's Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan announced in April.
"We're committed to the comprehensive approach to address addiction to nicotine that we announced past year", Gottlieb said. If the FDA sees continued underage use as an argument for banning e-cigarettes, the industry is doomed, even though it offers what the agency recognizes as "an alternative for adult smokers who still seek access to satisfying levels of nicotine, but without all of the harmful effects that come from combustion".
"Critically, FDA for the first time recognizes that it must be addressed by requiring that manufacturers remove flavored products from the market unless those products have been reviewed by FDA, alter current marketing practices, eliminate online sales and take significant steps to curtail illegal sales to kids", Myers said. "While we remain committed to advancing policies that promote the potential of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers move away from combustible cigarettes, that work can't come at the expense of kids", Gottlieb explained. "The FDA won't tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products".
The agency may also ban sales of some flavored e-cigarette products, which Gottlieb says are particularly appealing to underage users, and consider shortening a grace period that now gives e-cigarette companies until 2022 to apply for FDA approval.
In the US, about 12 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes at least once a month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Protection estimated in 2017.
"The FDA should immediately move to regulate flavored e-cigarettes, instead of waiting until 2022, as it is now planning to do", Bloomberg said in a statement.
"I think it became clear to FDA that if they didn't get their arms around this issue the use of these products by kids across the nation would undo decades of progress", said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The company, which sells pods with flavours such as mango, mint and creme, also defended such products, which it said help adult customers trying to quit traditional smoking. As a result, they've asked the manufacturers of vaping products to act - otherwise, their products might be prohibited from sale.