Over the past several years there has been much debate over the role that flavors play in both encouraging people to quit smoking cigarettes for electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and attracting young people to e-cigarettes. In effort to get to the bottom of the flavor debate, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. intends to take critical steps in the form of an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) that calls upon stakeholders to share data on the subject.

The thought of any child starting down a path of a lifelong addiction to tobacco, which could ultimately lead to their death, is unacceptable. We need to take every effort to prevent kids from getting hooked on nicotine. To that end, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s comprehensive plan we announced last summer to regulate tobacco and nicotine first-and-foremost seeks to better protect our nation’s youth, as well as future generations, from the disease and death caused by tobacco use.

In the spirit of our commitment to preventing kids from using tobacco, we are taking a closer look at flavors in tobacco products to better understand their level of impact on youth initiation. And as a public health agency, it’s important that we also explore how flavors, under a properly regulated framework that protects youth, may also be helping some currently addicted adult cigarette smokers switch to certain non-combustible forms of tobacco products.

Experts who’ve weighed in are somewhat torn on the implications flavor has on tobacco use. The consensus is that flavors do both good and harm. Harm in the sense that flavor is identified as one of the top three reasons for why high school students try vaporizers. While at the same time, flavors are attributed as one of the leading factors for adults who make the switch from combustible cigarettes to electronic ones.

With all this in mind, given our new policy framework and more recent evolutions in the tobacco marketplace, we believe it’s important that we re-examine the issue of flavors as we work to best protect public health and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death. We must give serious consideration to the ways in which we might further address flavors in combustible tobacco products like menthol in cigarettes and the fruit and candy-flavored little cigars and cigarillos. We must also consider how best to address flavors in non-combustible products like e-cigarettes – given both their clear appeal to youth but also the potential role certain flavors may play in helping some adult smokers transition to potentially less harmful tobacco products.

This information was first reported by the FDA Newsroom.

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