FALMOUTH, Maine — The Food and Drug Administration announced new regulations Wednesday to prioritize enforcement of flavored e-cigarette products that kids can easily get their hands on.
The FDA is proposing to end its current compliance policy as it applies to flavored electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) products (other than tobacco-, mint-, and menthol-flavored).
Previously, the FDA planned not to enforce certain requirements on these flavored pods before August 2022, but after studies found high numbers of kids under age 18 using e-cigarettes, the FDA changed its plan.
"Under the proposed policy announced today, we’re putting all manufacturers and retailers on notice: you may be subject to FDA enforcement for selling certain flavored ENDS products without authorization.
We’ll prioritize enforcement to prevent the access and appeal of these products to kids," wrote Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
The FDA plans to prioritize enforcement of products offered for sale in ways that pose a greater risk to kids, evaluating if the place of sale requires heightened age verification before someone can purchase the product.
For example, the FDA will consider whether the products are sold at places where minor can enter at any time, or for online sales if the products are sold with limits on quantity purchased in a period of time, as well as independent, third-party age- and identity-verification services.
Mandy Littlefied, assistant manager of Waldo's General Store in Falmouth, said JUULs and other e-cigarettes are one of their most popular items, but that her staff checks the ID of anyone who appears to be under the age of 27.
As a smoker trying to quit, Littlefield said she would never want to encourage kids to begin using nicotine in any form.
"It shouldn't be easy for them to get. It should be hard for them to get," said Littlefield. "I don't mind not carrying the [e-cigarette] pods if it makes the kids not want to smoke and keeps them safe, I think that's great."
She said she also supports age verification, after she said one could easily lie about their age when purchasing these items online.
At middle and high schools across southern Maine, school resource officers report e-cigarette is as big of a problem as the FDA states.
Falmouth Middle School SRO Jeff Smith teaches health classes to students about the dangers of the products.
"You don't know what you're getting. You don't know what you're putting in your body," said Ofc. Smith. "You only have one brain, and if that doesn't develop properly, you're likely to have some mental illness later on down the road."
Officer Smith encourages parents to talk with their kids frequently about drug use. Parents can learn more about guiding those conversations here.