Could drug therapy help teens stop vaping? The FDA thinks it might

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - The FDA wants to get teens to stop vaping, and they're considering drug therapy to do so.

From now until February 1, the FDA is inviting the public to weigh in on whether or not they think drug therapy is a good idea.

Officials have been pushing for change for months, saying they have seen a rise in the number of teens using e-cigarettes.

"We've started to take some aggressive steps [and] we'll be continuing to take steps over the coming months to try and address this epidemic use of e-cigarettes by [the] youth," FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb said.

Right now, it's not clear exactly what therapies would be used, but one idea being tossed around is over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy.

Related: Camden County Sheriff's Office warns parents of dangerous vaping trend 

At a recent public hearing in Maryland, the FDA mentioned the possibility of using drug therapies as part of a multimodal treatment strategy. That could include behavioral interventions in an effort to support tobacco product cessation.

To date, officials said there isn't enough research to say whether or not that would be effective, but it's one choice they want to look into.

"The bottom line is that in the data sets we use, we have never seen use of any substance by America's young people rise this rapidly," Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said.

According to the FDA, vaping had increased nearly 80 percent among high schoolers and 50 percent among middle schoolers since the year before. It's because of those numbers Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared e-cigarette use among the youth an epidemic in the United States.

In Chesapeake, Zoe Walters isn't so sure about the idea of using drug therapy. She works at Density Vapor and said vaping started as a way to get people off of cigarettes.

"Just like with anything, you have to be knowledgeable of what you're doing before you do it. If you go into it without the proper knowledge, it will be unsafe," Walters said.

When it comes to underage teens, Walters said there are rules in place to make sure they don't get their hands on the product.

Employees ID every single person and stay away from the latest Juul fad that kids are using. "You see most of the vapers, [that are like] really involved in the industry stay away from [Juul]. They won't sell it, they will not promote it because it is so greatly associated with children," Walters said.

A Juul Labs spokesperson told News 3:

“Underage use of JUUL and any other vaping products is completely unacceptable to us and is directly opposed to our mission of eliminating cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers a true alternative to combustible cigarettes. We are moving full steam ahead on implementing our action plan to limit youth usage, and this is unchanged since we announced our plan in November. We will be a transparent, engaged, and committed partner with FDA, state Attorneys General, local municipalities, and community organizations in the effort to combat underage use.”

Walters said if employees ever get the impression that the product is being bought for someone else, specifically a teen, they won't sell it. She said they would rather have someone upset than sell to a minor.

Walters told News 3 that she thinks parents also need to be held accountable. If their children are vaping and getting the oils illegally, then she said that is something they need to be monitoring.

The public comment period for the FDA's proposal on the role for drug therapies in teens will be open until February 1. For more information, click here.

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