'We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, ' he said in today's announcement.
The statement also states that the agency issued 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers who were caught illegally selling products to minors in "an undercover blitz of brick-and-mortar and online stores this summer".
In April, the FDA requested documents from JUUL that may shed light on whether the company marketed its products to younger audiences.
These levels of nicotine are highly addictive, particularly to the developing brains of children and teenagers. The FDA should also be moving to remove all flavored tobacco products from the market - unless a manufacturer shows that they help adults switch completely from cigarettes and do not attract youth - which is clearly not the case for the most popular products now on the market.
The agency has so far issued fines to 131 retailers, ranging from $279 to $11,182.
Noting an "epidemic" surge in teen use of e-cigarettes, Gottlieb warned the FDA might require companies to change their sales and marketing practices; stop distributing products to retailers who sell to kids; and remove flavored e-cigarette products from the market. "In the coming weeks, we'll take additional action under our Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan to immediately address the youth access to, and the appeal of, these products".
In his remarks, Gottlieb criticized e-cigarette manufacturers for failing to address teen use of their products.
E-cigarettes, aside from the occasional exploding piece of tech, are often considered by experts, including the FDA, to be potentially safer alternatives to conventional puff tubes. "Clearly the FDA knows who the industry culprits are in this epidemic and as such should exercise its full regulatory authority over these products rather than allow the industry to voluntarily self-correct".
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos unveils $2 bn fund for homeless, others
Amazon has faced criticism for paying little in taxes, which stems in part from its historically low profits. Jeff Bezos's net worth is about $150 billion, so this campaign represents a little over 1% of that.
"I wouldn't say they are harmless but we haven't had the opportunity to evaluate the real risks", he said.
The FDA's core message: Children must first be protected from becoming addicted to nicotine even if it means less availability of e-cigarettes for adults trying to use the devices to end their tobacco habits.
The FDA has also expanded "The Real Cost" public education campaign with messages focused on preventing youth use of e-cigarettes.
The latest data, not yet published, show a 75 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students this year compared to 2017. "We can not allow a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine".
In 2017, 11.7% of high schoolers who participated in the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey said they had vaped a tobacco product within the last month, up from 1.5% in 2011. As part of today's action, the agency sent an additional 12 warning letters to another 12 companies that continue to sell the products.
The companies say they are working with the FDA to prevent young people from using their devices. But the FDA nonetheless intends to stand in the way of JUUL and other products that could help millions of Americans, disproportionately poor, take an important step toward improving their health. Why?
At that time of the extension, Gottlieb said Wednesday, the agency didn't foresee the "epidemic'"of adolescent use that has become one of the plan's biggest challenges". He also said the agency is "considering the immediate removal ... from the market" of e-cigarette flavorings that cater to underage users. British American Tobacco shares increased almost 6 percent to their best day since December, 2008.
The commissioner said flavors play a key role in peaking teen interest.