The Food and Drug Administration first authorized the sale of an electronic cigarette in the United States on Tuesday, a significant turning point in one of the most controversial public health debates in decades.
In giving the green light to a tobacco-flavored device and cartridges marketed by RJ Reynolds under the brand name Vuse, the agency said it believes that the help that certain vaping devices offer smokers in quitting traditional cigarettes is more important than the risk of trapping a new generation.
“Aerosols from authorized products are significantly less toxic than burnt cigarettes based on available data,” the FDA said in a statement announcing the decision.
The statement concluded, “The FDA determined that the potential benefits for smokers who quit completely or drastically reduce their cigarette use would outweigh the risks to young people.”
The landmark move could pave the way for some other e-cigarettes, including the once-dominant manufacturer Juul, to be allowed to remain in the market. For more than a year, e-cigarette makers have been on hold – their products are on the market but awaiting official clearance – as the FDA investigated whether they presented a benefit or a danger to the consumer. public health.
Over the past few months, as part of this review, the agency has ordered thousands of vaping products on the market, including a brand that has overtaken Juul as a favorite among teens for their fruity and sweet flavors, Puff Bars. On Tuesday, the agency also ordered 10 more Vuse flavored products from the market, but declined to say which products it had rejected.
The condemnation of the decision was swift.
“It throws young people under the bus,” said Erika Sward, national assistant vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association. She said the concern was with both the broader rationale for endorsing these products, but also the Vuse, which in the government’s latest youth smoking survey turned out to be one of the brands of vaping. most popular with young people.
Vuse owner RJ Reynolds is one of the largest cigarette companies in the world. Juul belongs to another, Altria. Ms Sward said an industry that lied about hanging generations on a deadly product that killed millions was now able to control the next iteration of the nicotine market.
“The industry was waiting for its next big thing and they found it with electronic cigarettes,” she said.
Kaelan Hollon, spokesperson for Reynolds American, the parent company of RJR, said the decision “represents an important moment for Reynolds” and shows that the authorized products “are appropriate for the protection of public health.” .