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Regulatory efforts to curtail children’s access to flavored electronic cigarettes could have limited insurance implications, experts say.
New research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that e-cigarette use among youngsters is significantly increasing. From 2017 to 2018, there was a 78% increase in e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48% increase among middle school students, with the total number of middle and high school students currently using e-cigarettes rising to 3.6 million.
The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products will revisit its compliance policy for electronic nicotine delivery systems, including all flavors other than tobacco, mint and menthol, with a proposal to have these products sold in age-restricted in-person locations and, if sold online, under heightened practices for age verification for those under the age of 18, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement in November.
“I think it’s irrefutable that some members of the industry have deliberately targeted minors and underage users,” said Annesley DeGaris, a partner at personal injury law firm DeGaris & Rogers LLC in Birmingham, Alabama. "What adult is going to ... buy a flavor called unicorn puke? That is not a marketing name you use to attract a 50-year-old trying to break a cigarette habit. You’re trying to create a whole new class of people addicted to nicotine.”
News of the planned FDA regulations “might scare underwriters off, but we have not seen that reaction yet,” said Edward McNenney, executive vice president and excess liability practice leader at Willis Towers Watson PLC in New York.
Insurance policies covering e-cigarette products already exclude nonapproved FDA products, but insurers “might tighten up some of that language,” he said.
The FDA will release updated lists of manufacturers and ingredients not approved to be in the products, “which will force insurance carriers to constantly have to update their restrictions on what risks they are able to entertain,” David Andrews, Chicago-based producer with insurtech firm and online insurance agency Insureon, said via email.
Exploding batteries causing severe burns and potential links to serious health problems have made most insurers skittish about covering electronic cigarette products.