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FDA OKs first menthol e-cigarettes, citing potential to help adult smokers

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FDA OKs first menthol e-cigarettes, citing potential to help adult smokers
News

News

FDA OKs first menthol e-cigarettes, citing potential to help adult smokers

2024-06-22 02:49 Last Updated At:02:50

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the first menthol-flavored electronic cigarettes for adult smokers, acknowledging that vaping flavors can reduce the harms of traditional tobacco smoking.

The FDA said it authorized four menthol e-cigarettes from Njoy, the vaping brand recently acquired by tobacco giant Altria, which also sells Marlboro cigarettes.

The decision lends new credibility to vaping companies’ longstanding claim that their products can help blunt the toll of smoking, which is blamed for 480,000 U.S. deaths annually due to cancer, lung disease and heart disease. E-cigarettes have been sold in the U.S. since 2007 but in recent years their potential benefits for smokers have been overshadowed by their use by adolescents and teens.

Parents and anti-tobacco groups immediately criticized the decision, which follows years of advocacy efforts to keep menthol and other flavors that can appeal to teens off the market.

“This decision could mean we’ll never be able to close the Pandora’s box of the youth vaping epidemic,” said Meredith Berkman, co-founder of Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes. “FDA has once again failed American families by allowing a predatory industry to source its next generation of lifetime customers — America’s children."

Youth vaping has declined from all-time highs in recent years, with about 10% of high schoolers reporting e-cigarette use last year. Of those who vaped, 90% used flavors, including menthol.

All the e-cigarettes previously authorized by the FDA have been tobacco, which isn't widely used by young people who vape.

Njoy is one of only three companies that previously received FDA's OK for vaping products. Like those products, two of the Njoy menthol varieties come as cartridges that plug into a reusable device that heats liquid nicotine, turning it into an inhalable aerosol. The other two Njoy menthol products are disposable e-cigarettes.

Njoy’s products accounted for less than 3% of U.S. e-cigarette sales in the past year, according to retail data from Nielsen. Vuse, owned by Reynolds American, and Juul control about 60% of the market, while hundreds of disposable brands account for the rest.

Most teens who vape use disposable e-cigarettes, including brands like Elf Bar, which come in flavors such as watermelon and blueberry ice.

Altria's data showed Njoy e-cigarettes helped smokers reduce their exposure to the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes, the FDA said. The agency stressed the products are neither safe nor “FDA approved,” and that people who don’t smoke shouldn’t use them.

Friday’s action is part of a sweeping FDA review intended to bring scientific scrutiny to the multibillion-dollar vaping market after years of regulatory delays. Currently the U.S. market includes thousands of fruit- and candy-flavored vapes that are technically illegal but are widely available in convenience stores, gas stations and vape shops.

The FDA faced a self-imposed court deadline at the end of this month to wrap up its yearslong review of major vaping brands, including Juul and Vuse.

Those brands have been sold in the U.S. for years, awaiting FDA action on their scientific applications. To stay on the market, companies must show that their e-cigarettes provide an overall health benefit for smokers, without significantly appealing to kids.

“Based upon our rigorous scientific review, in this instance, the strength of evidence of benefits to adult smokers from completely switching to a less harmful product was sufficient to outweigh the risks to youth,” said Matthew Farrelly of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

Richmond-based Altria previously took a $13 billion stake in Juul in 2018, when the brand controlled most of the U.S. vaping market. But Juul's value plummeted after it was hit with lawsuits and investigations over its role in sparking a national spike in underage vaping.

This story has been updated to correct that two of the four menthol e-cigarettes from Njoy are disposable products.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

This image provided by NJOY in 2024 shows packaging for the company's menthol-flavored electronic cigarette product. On Friday, June 21, 2024, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first menthol-flavored electronic cigarettes for adult smokers, the government’s strongest indication yet that vaping flavors can reduce the harms of traditional tobacco smoking. The FDA said it authorized four menthol e-cigarettes from NJOY, the vaping brand recently acquired by tobacco giant Altria, which also makes Marlboro cigarettes. (NJOY via AP)

This image provided by NJOY in 2024 shows packaging for the company's menthol-flavored electronic cigarette product. On Friday, June 21, 2024, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first menthol-flavored electronic cigarettes for adult smokers, the government’s strongest indication yet that vaping flavors can reduce the harms of traditional tobacco smoking. The FDA said it authorized four menthol e-cigarettes from NJOY, the vaping brand recently acquired by tobacco giant Altria, which also makes Marlboro cigarettes. (NJOY via AP)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s far-right national security minister visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site on Thursday, a move that could disrupt the delicate Gaza cease-fire talks.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist settler leader, said he had gone up to the contested Jerusalem hilltop compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray for the return of the hostages "but without a reckless deal, without surrendering.”

The move threatens to disrupt sensitive talks aimed at reaching a cease-fire in the 9-month-old Israel-Hamas war. Israeli negotiators landed in Cairo on Wednesday to continue talks.

The visit also came just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves for a trip to the United States, where he will address Congress.

Ben-Gvir said while standing in front of the golden dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque that he “is praying and working hard" to ensure that Netanyahu will not give in to international pressure and will continue with the military campaign in Gaza.

Ben-Gvir last visited the site in May to protest countries unilaterally recognizing Palestinian statehood.

He has been convicted eight times for offenses that include racism and supporting a terrorist organization. As a teen, his views were so extreme that the army banned him from compulsory military service.

As security minister, Ben-Gvir oversees the country’s police force. As a key coalition partner, Ben-Gvir also has the power to rob Netanyahu of his parliamentary majority and try to force early elections.

Ben-Gvir has used his influence to push forward pet projects and encourage Netanyahu to press ahead with the war in Gaza in the face of widespread calls to reach a cease-fire deal that would bring home hostages.

Jews and Muslims both claim the Jerusalem hilltop compound, which is considered the holiest site for Jews.

Palestinians consider the mosque a national symbol and view such visits as provocative, though Ben-Gvir has frequently visited the site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, during tense periods. Tensions over the compound have fueled past rounds of violence.

In an overnight session that lasted into Thursday morning, Israel’s parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state. The vote was largely symbolic and meant to send a message ahead of Netanyahu’s trip to the U.S.

Overnight Israeli strikes Thursday in central Gaza killed at least 11 people, according to the Hamas-run Civil Defense organization and hospitals. At least two children and two women were killed in air strikes on a house and a car.

In recent weeks, Israel has stepped up strikes in central Gaza, where many Palestinians have fled to escape fighting in other parts of the beleaguered territory. Israel’s military said it targeted a senior commander from the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad’s naval forces in Gaza City, and another Islamic Jihad commander responsible for launches in the city of Shejayiah.

Israel also said it killed a senior commander affiliated with Hamas and other militant groups in Lebanon. In a statement, Sunni al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, or the Islamic Group, identified him as Mohammad Hamed Jabbara and said he was killed in a strike in the western Bekaa area in Lebanon not far from the Syrian border. The Israeli military described Jabara as a Hamas operative in Lebanon who helped coordinate Islamic Group attacks targeting northern Israel.

The war in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, has killed more than 38,600 people, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. The war has created a humanitarian catastrophe in the coastal Palestinian territory, displaced most of its 2.3 million population and triggered widespread hunger.

Hamas’ October attack killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and militants took about 250 hostage. About 120 remain in captivity, with about a third of them believed to be dead, according to Israeli authorities.

FILE - Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool, File)

FILE - Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool, File)

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