"From 2017 to 2018, there was a 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students", he said.
Moreover, Gottlieb adds that he believes that menthol products "disproportionately and adversely affect underserved communities and as a matter of public health, they exacerbate troubling disparities in health related to race and socioeconomic status that are a major concern of mine". As part of a series of measures outlined on Thursday, he said that the agency would limit sales of most types of flavored e-cigarettes to specialized stores and online retailers that can verify a purchaser's age.
After much speculation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving closer to removing flavored vapor products from convenience stores.
E-cigarettes also expose users to toxic heavy metals, according to the NASEM report, as well as cancer-causing chemicals-though in most cases at lower levels than traditional cigarettes. About 3.6 million kids and teenagers in the USA vape, the FDA says.
Teens have been enticed by the fruit and candy flavors as well as sleek and easy-to-conceal devices sold by companies like Juul Labs Inc.
Some e-cigarette makers have already taken steps to curb sales to young people, including JUUL, a fast-growing startup which announced Tuesday it is suspending in-store sales of various flavored products and scrapping its social media presence. They could still be sold in vape shops or other businesses who don't admit minors.
Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said "it is widely recognized that e-cigarettes are the gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes for teens and young adults".
"The banning of flavors, popular among teens, would definitely be an important step in curbing the growing epidemic of e-cigarettes among youth", said Patricia Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health, a network of hospitals in NY. He said it could still opt to take all e-cigarettes off the market if youth use doesn't abate. "You can approve a product or not for sale but don't get to say where it can be sold".
The new rules on e-cigarette flavors mean that numerous sweet and fruity varieties believed to be most popular among minors will only be available in stores such as vape shops or tobacco shops that do not allow under-age people inside.
Menthol cigarettes represent more than 30 percent of USA cigarette volumes and approximately 55 percent of BAT's US volumes, through its Newport brand, according to a research note from AllianceBernstein earlier this week.
"We're really pleased that the FDA is taking action on menthol and on flavors in little cigars", Koval said.
"The proposed measure by the FDA is long overdue to protect the health of African Americans and to reduce the deleterious impact of menthol smoking and tobacco use overall on America's health", NAACP health program director Marjorie Innocent said in a statement.