New FDA Chief Calls Drop in Youth Smoking ‘Encouraging’

Gottlieb seeking retailer action to keep tobacco products from minors

WASHINGTON -- In his first statement on tobacco use, the new head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stressed the need for retailers to keep age-restricted products from minors.

In a statement issued June 15, Dr. Scott Gottlieb responded to newly released research showing a 17% drop in the use of tobacco products by middle and high school students, from 4.7 million in 2015 to 3.9 million in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

“While the latest numbers from the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey are encouraging, it is critical that we work to ensure this downward trend continues over the long term across all tobacco products,” the statement said. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has invested heavily in compelling, science-based campaigns to educate youth about the dangers of tobacco use. Our work to ensure we’re reaching our audience with powerful messages that raise awareness, shift beliefs and ultimately save lives by changing behaviors is having a meaningful impact.”

Gottlieb said another pillar of the FDA’s effort is to “make sure retailers understand and take seriously their responsibility of keeping harmful and addictive tobacco products out of the hands of children,” pointing to the more than 4,000 warning letters the FDA has sent to brick-and-mortar and online retailers for selling e-cigarettes, cigars or hookah tobacco to minors since restrictions went into effect in August 2016.

“We plan to build on these vital efforts to reduce tobacco-related disease and death,” he said.

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