FDA approves sale of menthol-flavored e-cigarettes – a health policy expert explains why the advantages may outweigh the risks

On June 21, 2024, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the marketing of the first electronic cigarette products with flavors apart from tobacco within the USA From the 4 recent authorized productstwo of those are sealed, pre-filled pods with menthol-flavored nicotine liquid that might be utilized in certain varieties of e-cigarettes. The other two are disposable nicotine e-cigarettes – meaning that after the pre-filled menthol liquid is used up, the device can’t be reused.

The Conversation asked Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, a health policy expert who specializing in tobacco control and e-cigarette productsto clarify the professionals and cons of FDA approval and what it could mean for vulnerable populations.

What does the FDA’s recent announcement mean?

E-cigarettes, also called vapes, are handheld, battery-operated devices that heat a liquid to create vapor that might be inhaled. This vapor might be flavored. Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco leaves. E-cigarettes can – but shouldn’t have to – contain nicotine.

Until June 21, only tobacco-flavored nicotine-containing e-cigarettes were legal on the market within the United States. Some organizations, including some representatives of the tobacco industry, called this a “De facto ban on taste.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define menthol as a chemical compound occurs naturally in peppermint and other similar plants.

This is the primary time the FDA has approved the marketing of an e-cigarette flavor apart from tobacco. “Tobacco flavor” describes a variety of flavors designed to taste like traditional cigarettes.

What dangers exist, for instance risks for kids?

In the past, tobacco firms have added menthol to traditional cigarettes to make them less hard and more appealing. Tobacco firms have Menthol cigarettes aggressively marketed to black peopleIn 2022, the FDA will proposed a ban for menthol cigarettes due to their appeal, including to young people, and the potential of such a ban to enhance health and forestall deaths. But the proposal has stalled.

Studies show that non-tobacco e-liquid flavors are more attractive than tobacco flavors, even to young people. The FDA has previously rejected applications for menthol e-cigarettesand stated that the applications “did not contain sufficient scientific evidence to demonstrate that the potential benefits to adult smokers outweigh the risks associated with smoking by youth and smoking initiation.”

How are e-cigarettes regulated within the US?

In the USA, e-cigarettes containing nicotine are regulated by the FDA Center for Tobacco ProductsIn order for his or her products to be legally marketed and sold within the United States, e-cigarette manufacturers must apply for marketing authorization from the FDA.

The FDA evaluates these applications based on the scientific evidence provided by manufacturers. To be approved, applications must exhibit that approval of the products can be appropriate to guard the general public health.

This implies that the FDA must weigh whether the potential advantages of the product – in other words, its ability to assist adults quit smoking – the risks outweigh the advantages, including Appeal to the youthAlthough they are usually not risk-free, e-cigarettes are considered much less harmful than smokingThis implies that adults who switch from smoking to vaping may gain advantage from improvements on their health.

The FDA's approval of menthol-flavored e-cigarettes underscores growing evidence that vaping can reduce the harms of traditional smoking, but many experts are concerned that the brand new products will entice more young people and nonsmokers to take up vaping and smoking.

Weren't there already flavored e-cigarettes within the US?

Although prior to this recent announcement only tobacco e-liquids were permitted on the market, Report on the usage of flavoured e-liquidswith sweet, fruity, mint and menthol flavours being the preferred. This is partly because many vaping products available within the USA haven’t been approved for marketing or sale. These are known as illegal productsIn addition, a number of the products currently available are still being reviewed by the FDA.

Many of the hazards that the general public associates with vaping – comparable to severe steam-related lung injuries which were widely reported in 2019 and 2020 – have been linked to illegal products and harmful chemicals some that are usually not present in FDA-approved products. In early June, the Department of Justice and the FDA announced a federal interagency task force to curb the spread and sale of illegal e-cigarettes. The USA is now flooded with elegant, colourful and highly effective vapes made in China.

What effects can there be on health?

The best available research doesn’t show any clear differences between menthol and tobacco flavoured e-liquid with regard to direct health risks to users.

As mentioned above, research suggests that non-tobacco-flavored e-liquid flavors are more attractive than tobacco-flavored ones, no less than in some groups. This could mean an increased risk of non-smoking youth beginning to vape. But it could also encourage smokers to modify to vaping, which may pose fewer risks than smokingQuitting smoking may improve other people’s health by Passive smoking exposure.

smoking kills half of the regular users and is the leading reason behind preventable deaths within the USA And worldwideAlternatives that increase the possibilities of successful smoking cessation can subsequently bring significant health advantages.

To approve the 4 recent products, the FDA needed to review extensive documents and research showing that the advantages of the brand new products outweighed the risks.

image credit : theconversation.com