HHS Secretary Alex Azar forbids e-cigarettes as 'on-ramp' to youth addiction

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking to crack down on flavored e-cigarettes since the surge in teenage use of the products.

U.S. health officials on Wednesday declared the teen use of e-cigarettes an epidemic and issued more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to entities related to the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to minors. They also ordered five e-cigarette brands, including vaping giant JUUL, to submit plans to address teen use of their products.

Although e-cigarettes can potentially help adults quit smoking regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products, the CDC warns they are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women or adults that don’t use tobacco products.

JUUL said it is “proactively” responding to the FDA’s request and is “committed to preventing underage use of its products.

 We want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people,” a spokesperson said in a statement to FOX Business. "Our mission is to improve the lives of adult smokers by providing them with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes. Appropriate flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch. By working together, we believe we can help adult smokers while preventing access to minors, and we will continue to engage with the FDA to fulfill our mission."

“These alternative nicotine delivery devices can be important for helping adults get off of combustible tobacco as an offramp,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Thursday.

“But we are not going to let e-cigarettes be an on-ramp for our youth to get addicted to nicotine and transition potentially into combustible tobacco — not going to happen.”

While e-cigarettes are thought to be less harmful than regular cigarettes, it’s still unclear of the impact of long-term use.

This article was updated to include JUUL’s comment.