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US lawmaker faults FDA chief for lax oversight of teen vaping. ‘Big, big whopping mistake’

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey criticized Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb for delaying a regulation that would have temporarily removed electronic cigarettes from the market in 2016, saying it helped fueled an epidemic in teen use and calling it a “big, big whopping mistake.”

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“The FDA’s decision to take its foot off the gas while thousands of products have entered market has led to the epidemic we face today,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Lowey, D-N.Y., told Gottlieb at a hearing Wednesday.

About one-fifth of high school seniors said they vaped last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual National Youth Tobacco Survey.

Gottlieb said increasing youth e-cigarette use is one of the biggest public health challenges the agency faces. While the FDA sees vaping as a potential way to get adult smokers to quit, e-cigarettes are incredibly popular among young people.

“We’re trying to thread a public health needle here where we preserve some element of the availability of these products for adults while foreclosing them for kids, or at least really dramatically curtailing the availability of kids to access these products,” he said.

The FDA in November said it will limit sales of most flavors to age-restricted stores like vape shops, though it still has not issued guidelines on the policy. Gottlieb said Wednesday he will implement those soon.

He also renewed his threatto remove e-cigarettes from the market if trends don’t improve.