55 Colorado stores issued warnings or fined for selling e-cigarettes to minors

WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials are sounding the alarm about teenage use of e-cigarettes, calling the problem an “epidemic” and ordering manufacturers to reverse the trend or risk having their flavored vaping products pulled from the market.

The warning from the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday cited recent data pointing to a sharp rise in underage use of the devices, including Juul, Vuse and others.

It marks a shift in the agency’s tone on e-cigarettes. Since 2017, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has discussed e-cigarettes as a potential tool to ween adult smokers off cigarettes, although that benefit hasn’t been proven.

But Gottlieb said in an address at FDA headquarters that he failed to predict the current “epidemic of addiction” among youth, mainly driven by flavored products.

“The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth and the resulting path to addiction must end,” Gottlieb told agency staffers and reporters.

The FDA said it remains committed to exploring e-cigarettes as a less-harmful alternative for adult smokers, but Gottlieb added “that work can’t come at the expense of kids.”

E-cigarettes are vapor-emitting devices that have grown into a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. despite little research on their long-term effects, including whether they are helpful in helping smokers quit.

They’re generally considered a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes. But health officials have warned nicotine in e-cigarettes is harmful to developing brains.

They typically contain nicotine, and sometimes flavorings like fruit, mint or chocolate.

Health advocates have worried about the popularity of vaping products among kids and the potential impact on smoking rates in the future. A government-commissioned report in January found “substantial evidence” that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try cigarettes.

Gottlieb cited unreleased federal figures that he says will be made public in coming months.

“We didn’t foresee the extent of what’s now become one of our biggest challenges,” he said, in prepared remarks. “Hindsight, and the data that’s now available to us, fully reveal these trends.”

In June, a government survey found teen vaping seemed to be holding steady last year. Some experts were cautious about the results, however.

They noted the survey did not ask specifically about Juul, a sleek, heavily-marketed e-cigarette brand that exploded onto the market and accounts for 70 percent of U.S. sales, according to analyst estimates.

“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.

His group and several others are suing the FDA over a decision to delay federal review of most e-cigarettes.

Under regulations developed by the Obama administration, manufacturers were supposed to submit most products for review by August 2018.

But last year Gottlieb delayed the deadline until 2022, saying both the agency and industry needed more time to prepare.

The decision was criticized by anti-smoking advocates who say e-cigarette makers are targeting kids with candy flavors and marketing that portrays their products as flashy, hand-held gadgets.

Under Wednesday’s announcement, the five largest e-cigarette manufacturers will have 60 days to produce plans to stop underage use of their products. The companies sell Vuse, Blu, Juul, MarkTen XL, and Logic e-cigarette brands, which account for 97 percent of U.S. e-cigarette sales, according to FDA.

If the plans fall short, the FDA could block sales of the products by enforcing a requirement that companies provide detailed design and health data about their products before marketing them.

The FDA’s delay on that requirement has allowed the industry to flourish with little oversight. But it’s not clear how quickly the decision could be reversed.

Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog said Juul is the brand “most at risk” from an FDA crackdown and that a potential ban on the company’s products would boost Altria and other cigarette makers that also sell e-cigarettes.

Shares of Big Tobacco companies surged in trading Wednesday. Altria Group Inc. and British American Tobacco Plc had the biggest one-day percentage gain in about a decade.

San Francisco-based Juul said it is working to prevent underage use of its products but added that flavors can help adult smokers quit.

“By working together, we believe we can help adult smokers while preventing access to minors,” the company said in a statement.

The FDA also announced 1,300 warning letters and fines to online and traditional stores that have illegally sold Juul and other e-cigarettes to minors.

Regulators said it was the largest coordinated crackdown in the agency’s history.

Fifty-five of those stores are in Colorado. While many of the shops are in the Denver area, several others around the state were cited.

ESTABLISHMENT NAME ADDRESS CITY
7-ELEVEN / CONOCO 201 WEST FILMORE STREET COLORADO SPRINGS
7-ELEVEN 2641 SOUTH ESTES STREET LAKEWOOD
C AND F FOOD STORE 596 25 ROAD GRAND JUNCTION
CONOCO / COLORADO FAST BREAK 4001 COLORADO BOULEVARD DENVER
CONOCO/ MY GOODS MARKET 3440 SOUTH WADSWORTH BOULEVARD LAKEWOOD
CONOCO/CITY MART 3457 SOUTH WADSWORTH BOULEVARD LAKEWOOD
FAMILY CIGARETTE AND GROCERY STORE 1608 EAST COLFAX AVENUE DENVER
GO-FER FOODS 2146 BROADWAY GRAND JUNCTION
MAVERIK #417 3249 F ROAD CLIFTON
STOP N SAVE 6 / CONOCO 3262 F ROAD CLIFTON
ECO GAS / SHELL 3480 SOUTH LOGAN STREET ENGLEWOOD
7- ELEVEN 13196 1277 EAST HAMPDEN AVENUE ENGLEWOOD
7-ELEVEN #34505 1107 SOUTH SHERIDAN BOULEVARD LAKEWOOD
7-ELEVEN STORE 13206A 3900 SOUTH BROADWAY ENGLEWOOD
MASTER VAPORS 423 NORTH CIRCLE DRIVE COLORADO SPRINGS
SHOP N GO 3501 SOUTH LOGAN STREET ENGLEWOOD
EXTREME VAPE PENS 6533 NORTH ACADEMY BOULEVARD COLORADO SPRINGS
7- ELEVEN 1329 MAIN STREET CARBONDALE
7-ELEVEN 1600 WEST 92ND AVENUE FEDERAL HEIGHTS
7-ELEVEN 5785 WARD ROAD ARVADA
7-ELEVEN / SHELL 1810 MAIN STREET COLORADO SPRINGS
ANGEL CIGAR AND CIGARETTE GIFT SHOP 10250 FEDERAL BOULEVARD, UNIT 500 FEDERAL HEIGHTS
CONOCO / 7-ELEVEN 10815 WEST JEWELL AVENUE LAKEWOOD
CONOCO / QUICK SAVE 4895 WARD ROAD WHEAT RIDGE
FRESH FARE KING SOOPERS 3495 SOUTH UNIVERSITY BOULEVARD ENGLEWOOD
GIANT 20453 HIGHWAY 160 DURANGO
KWIK WAY FOOD ‘N STUFF 5676 NORTH UNION BOULEVARD COLORADO SPRINGS
MURPHY EXPRESS 8723 2346 SOUTH US HIGHWAY 287 LAFEYETTE
7 ELEVEN 34330B 3810 FEDERAL BOULEVARD DENVER
7-ELEVEN #29314A 10410 MELODY DRIVE NORTHGLENN
BRADLEY 64 / SINCLAIR 308 BEAR CREEK AVENUE MORRISON
CIRCLE K STORE #2709847 120 SOUTH ROCKRIMMON BOULEVARD COLORADO SPRINGS
VALERO / CORNER STORE 2900 SOUTH BEAR CREEK ROAD LAKEWOOD
VALERO / CORNER STORE 4094 7607 EAST ILIFF AVENUE DENVER
7-ELEVEN 7295 EAST 7TH AVENUE DENVER
7-ELEVEN / CONOCO 5190 WEST 113TH AVENUE WESTMINSTER
7-ELEVEN 34534 6201 EATE 14TH AVENUE DENVER
CONOCO 505 EAST SPEER BOULEVARD DENVER
CONOCO / ALTA CONVENIENCE 6011 11614 WEST BELLEVIEW AVENUE, SUITE A LITTLETON
JENNY’S MARKET 1504 COLORADO BOULEVARD DENVER
JRíS FOOD STORE 2495 NORTH 9TH STREET CANON CITY
LOVE’S TRAVEL STOP 226 6470 NORTH ELIZABETH STREET PUEBLO
PHILLIPS 66 / 7-ELEVEN 9100 WEST KEN CARYL AVENUE LITTLETON
PHILLIPS 66/MY GOODS MARKET 7695 WEST LONG DRIVE LITTLETON
SUPER 99 CENTER 7150 PECOS STREET DENVER
VALERO 11531 WEST KEN CARYL AVENUE LITTLETON
STINKER 316 / SINCLAIR 1103 SOUTH TOWNSEND AVENUE MONTROSE
LOVEíS COUNTRY STORE 7 108 SOUTH 12TH STREET GUNNISON
7-ELEVEN STORE 21242 6515 SOUTH DAYTON STREET GREENWOOD VILLAGE
ALTA CONVENIENCE / CONOCO 2105 WEST COLORADO AVENUE COLORADO SPRINGS
WALGREENS 10371 2701 MAIN AVENUE DURANGO
WILD SIDE SMOKE SHOP 1111 13TH STREET BOULDER
CONOCO / MY GOODS MARKET 10210 EAST ARAPAHOE ROAD CENTENNIAL
SMOKER FRIENDLY #103 5896 EAST 72ND AVENUE COMMERCE CITY
BROADWAY GAS STATION / CONOCO 3298 SOUTH BROADWAY ENGLEWOOD

On Wednesday, Gottlieb criticized e-cigarette companies’ handling of the underage use problem, saying they approached it as “a public relations challenge rather than seriously considering their legal obligations.

“The FDA is in the process of rolling out a sweeping anti-smoking initiative designed to make it easier for smokers to quit by cutting the nicotine levels in regular cigarettes,” he said.

As part of that plan, Gottlieb has suggested some smokers could be directed toward alternative products that deliver nicotine without the carcinogens of cigarettes.

Those products could include e-cigarettes, though the FDA has not given any company permission to advertise its device as a quit-smoking aid.

“I’m here to tell them today that this prior approach is over,” he said.

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