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AMA calls for total ban on all vaping and e-cigarette products

N.Y. joins California in lawsuit against Juul

The American Medical Association on Tuesday called for an immediate ban on all electronic cigarettes and vaping devices that don't meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval as cessation tools, citing a surge in underage teen use of the products as well as the recent outbreak in lung illnesses. 

But so far, none of the products have been reviewed or approved for that use by the FDA.

The group adopted the sweeping stance at a policy-making meeting in San Diego. It aims to lobby for state and federal laws, regulations or legal action to achieve a ban, but the industry is sure to fight back.

The AMA cited the lack of evidence about the short- and long-term health impact of e-cigarettes and vaping products in making the call for a total ban. The doctors' group said a separate health issue also prompted its action — the recent U.S. outbreak of lung illnesses linked to vaping. Most of those sickened said they vaped THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana, not nicotine. Officials believe a thickening agent used in black market THC vaping products may be a culprit.

About 2,100 people have gotten sick; 42 have died.

"It's simple, we must keep nicotine products out of the hands of young people." Dr. Patrice Harris, AMA's president, said in a statement.

The AMA has previously sought bans on e-cigarette flavors and ads. At the same time, some states, municipalities and corporations are seeking to limit the products, with Massachusetts lawmakers set to vote on Wednesday on a bill that would ban flavored tobacco. That measure is aimed at reducing vaping among teens, with researchers finding that 5 million children and teens are now using the products

Earlier this month, Apple said it would remove all apps related to electronic cigarettes and vaping from the company's app store, citing concerns about the rash of deaths and lung injuries linked to the products.

"A mistake"

Some observers say the AMA's position is flawed and has little chance of achieving a sweeping ban.

"I would be 100% with the AMA if they were seeking a ban on all tobacco products that are smoked, including e-cigarettes," said Jonathan Foulds, a tobacco addiction specialist at Penn State University. "But right now, nicotine electronic cigarettes are competing with and replacing the most harmful legal product in this country."

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a pro-vaping advocacy group, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made clear that its focus "is not store-bought nicotine vaping products, but illicit contaminated THC oil cartridges sold by drug dealers."

"It would be a mistake for adult smokers and their families to listen to these misguided prohibitionists, as the evidence continues to indicate that adult smokers who switch to nicotine vaping products greatly improve their health," Conley said.

FDA response

The AMA policy calls for a ban of vaping products not approved to help people quit. But so far, the FDA hasn't approved any for that purpose.

Stephanie Caccomo, an FDA press officer, said the agency is "committed to doing everything we can to prevent kids from using tobacco products and will continue to develop a policy approach that aligns with that concern."

Juul Labs, the nation's biggest e-cigarette maker, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

E-cigarettes first appeared in the U.S. more than a decade ago and have grown in popularity despite little research on their long-term effects. The FDA has been widely criticized for repeatedly pushing back its own deadline to begin reviewing thousands of vaping products on the market, at one point until 2022. The deadline is now next May.

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