But Woodcock wouldn’t question whether the agency plans to ban or limit the sale of flavored vapes later this year.
Manufacturers of electronic cigarettes must apply to the FDA for permission to keep their products in the US market. The agency has until September 9 to make a decision.
“If the FDA banned all flavored e-cigarettes, would fewer children continue to vape, among those who started, in your opinion? Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), asked during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.
“While I can’t predict the future, I think it could be likely. We should also, despite everything, limit advertising and sales by targeting children and other practices,” Woodcock said.
“Well, if they’re not in the market, it’s hard to advertise then, isn’t it?” Porter asked.
According to FDA data on youth smoking, more than 80% of young e-cigarette users consume flavored products. The FDA has come under pressure to simply ban flavored products.
“If the kids have a choice of any tasty flavor, they’re going to go for it, and I’m speaking to you from experience here as a mother of three school-aged kids,” Porter said.
“If it weren’t for the watermelon cones, my kids would be content with blue raspberries. No blue raspberries? They’ll have mango. No mango? They’ll have strawberries. But if their only choice was one. Tobacco-flavored brown snow cone, they’re going to go away, ”she said.
Pressed several times during the hearing, Woodcock would not commit to rejecting the requests for the time being.
Medical groups and advocacy groups such as the Campaign for Tobacco Free Children have pushed for a ban. But e-cigarette makers claim their products are a safer alternative to combustible cigarettes, and claim the flavors appeal to adult smokers as well.
Woodcock said the FDA would review the scientific evidence. “Like I said before, I can’t prejudge the scientist,” she said, before being cut off.
“Dr Woodcock, you may not be willing to do it, but I just want to make sure America understands. You have the power to commit today to preventing millions of children from becoming addicted. vaping by making the decision and committing to us today, ”Porter said.
Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), chairman of the Economic and Consumer Policy Oversight Subcommittee, said after the hearing he believed Woodcock would do what Democratic members of Congress wanted.
“I am more optimistic than ever that Commissioner Woodcock will do the right thing and deny Pre-Market Tobacco Product Applications (PMTAs) for all flavored vaping products and all high nicotine vaping products,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement.
“The makers of electronic cigarettes have acted with utter disregard for the health of young people across this country. Their actions are appalling, and the federal government can no longer allow this industry to foster youth addiction as a long-term marketing strategy for its products, ”said House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D -NY), in his opening speech.
“Regulatory agencies in our country must take immediate action to turn the tide of this crisis. The FDA can build on the steps it has taken so far by banning the sale of the remaining flavored products, capping nicotine levels in e-cigarettes and removing illegal products – like those sold by Puff Bar – off the market. I strongly urge the agency to take these common sense steps. “
Woodcock would also not commit to removing menthol-flavored e-cigarette products from the U.S. market, although she said she believed the menthol flavor could intensify the effects of nicotine.
“I was so happy that you banned combustible menthol cigarettes, which was the right thing to do,” Krishnamoorthi said at the hearing. “Will you commit to unlocking the market for menthol e-cigarettes?” “
“I cannot prejudge our decisions,” replied Woodcock.
“What I can say is that menthol has additional properties – pharmacological properties – which I believe potentiate the effects of nicotine addiction and make it harder to quit vaping or smoking,” Woodcock said. “It is, in my opinion, like actually having a higher concentration of nicotine in any delivery system.”
In an April press release following the FDA’s ban on menthol products in combustible cigarettes, the agency said evidence indicated that menthol “increases the attractiveness of tobacco and makes it easier to progress towards regular smoking, especially among young people and young adults “.
“That’s my belief based on the data,” Woodcock said at Wednesday’s hearing. “I don’t think it’s totally resolved, but the evidence shows that it’s harder for people who smoke menthol cigarettes to quit.”
Plus, the new products are making it harder to treat nicotine addiction, Woodcock said. She said doctors and other health care providers may not know how to help nicotine addicted children through vaping and other alternatives to combustible cigarettes.
“I really think we’re going to have to focus on recovering teens to get them out of their nicotine addiction. I’m not sure if the health care community is well aware of how this might work for young people who are addicted to nicotine but not cigarettes, ”said Woodcock.
“We have a group of kids who are addicted to nicotine now, we probably need to think about ways, how can we help them get well, get rid of nicotine,” she added.
“There is some evidence that early exposure to a variety of addictive products or drugs will act on the brain in ways that may make it more difficult for these people to stop these behaviors.”