Local smoke shop, health expert talk possible FDA changes to vaping, menthol cigarettes

Local smoke shop, health expert talk possible FDA changes to vaping, menthol cigarettes

Big changes may be coming to how nicotine products are sold, including both traditional tobacco like cigarettes and the newer trend, e-cigarettes.

A new U.S. Food and Drug Administration report shows vaping has increased by nearly 80 percent among high schoolers, so the agency is proposing changes to how e-cigarettes can be sold, along with proposing a ban to menthol cigarettes.

“It does not take much to make sure you’re not selling to minors,” said Landon Meske, general manager at Knuckleheads Tobacco & Vapes on State St. in Madison.

Meske is used to hearing excuses from minors without IDs looking to buy tobacco products.

For example, “‘Oh I left it in the car,'” he said. “Oh, go get it then.”

He said, however, that’s no excuse to allow cigarettes or e-cigs into the hands of teens.

“If anyone is selling to minors, whether they mean to or not, it is from negligence and laziness and not caring about your fellow man,” Meske said.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, about one fifth of high schoolers say they’re vaping. The agency is proposing changes, including removing non-mint and non-tobacco flavors that are popular with minors from websites and store shelves that aren’t age-restricted.

“The bottom line is we know that these flavors make it much easier for kids to initiate on tobacco products,” FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said.

The leading maker of e-cigarettes and juices, Juul, preemptively halted retail sales of flavored products already this week.

The FDA is also considering additional bans on regular menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

“That is actually huge news,” said Dr. Doug Jorenby, professor of medicine at the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention

Jorenby said menthol cigarettes are associated with much higher rates of aggressive lung cancer.

“It definitely comes at a price above and beyond initiating smoking,” he said, adding that the changes make sense from a public health perspective. “If this is followed through on, it’s going to be a very dramatic change in landscape.”

At Knuckleheads, Meske says not much will change. Under the proposals, age-restricted shops like this, would be some of the only places allowed to sell fruity flavors of e-juice, and Meske will continue making sure all customers are old enough to purchase them.

“Keeping it safe, above board, that’s what we’re all about,” he said.

Part of the conversation surrounding vaping is the fact that many smokers use e-cigarettes to try and stop smoking traditional cigarettes. While Jorenby said there’s not enough data to definitively say whether vaping has less risks, Gottlieb said he’d like to keep the door open for adults who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking, but not at the expense of teens getting hooked.

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.