FDA Discusses Using Drug Therapy To Help Teens Quit Vaping

By David Konow 01/22/19

The FDA recently held a public hearing to discuss the vaping epidemic among teens. 

a teen vaping with an e-cigarette

Many consider vaping to be a big problem, and many still don’t realize its potential harm. Now the FDA is so concerned about the popularity of vaping, they’re even considering drug therapy to help wean young people off vaping.

Matthew L. Myers, who is the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told CNN, “The FDA has concluded that the level of addiction it is seeing among youthful e-cigarette users is so disturbing and so unprecedented that it needs to at least ask whether we need a solution that goes beyond what we ever did with cigarettes.”

Even with the partial government shutdown in effect, the FDA held a public hearing on Friday, January 18, to address the problem. One of the biggest problems with the vaping epidemic among young people is that more research needs to be done. There’s a different kind of chemistry that goes into vaping, and previous research on teens and cigarette addiction clearly doesn’t apply the same way.

As Dr. Susanne Tanski, who is an associate professor of pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine, explained, “Clinicians urgently require new solutions to safely and effectively help stop [adolescents] using these and all tobacco products for good. There is unfortunately virtually no data on how to treat an adolescent with e-cigarette dependence.”

But then the conversation switched to a different tactic, which is trying to keep young people from starting vaping at all. Tanski conceded that “preventing youth use in the first place should be FDA’s primary goal. We must all recognize that if an adolescent has developed a nicotine addiction as a result of vaping, we’ve already failed.”

Several teens who got hooked on vaping also spoke at the public hearing. One teen first started Juuling in eighth grade, and he stated, “I see so many of my friends who had the same problem I did … and have no idea how to stop it.”

One possible solution that was proposed at this meeting was having the FDA conduct a “pre-market review” of e-cigarettes, which would include a ban on flavors, one of the most appealing factors of e-cigarettes to young people.

And while medication is being considered to help wean adolescents off vaping, non-drug therapy was strongly urged at this public hearing as well.

Nonprofit tobacco control group Truth Initiative has a program that helps young people quit through text messaging. An executive for Truth Initiative said in a statement, “E-cigarette users don’t identify as smokers. They have different barriers to quitting, and, especially in the case of teens and young adults, many want an anonymous way to go about quitting without involving their parents or friends, which texting provides.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.