FDA cracks down on sale of popular e-cigarette to minors

VERNON --  The FDA is cracking down on tobacco retailers who sell e-cigarette to minors.

The agency is zeroing in on a brand of e-cigarettes called Juul, which are in high demand among many teens.

Merchants are prohibited from selling tobacco products to anyone 18 years or younger in Connecticut.

Despite the law, e-cigarettes are part of the teen vaping craze that is so popular it has grown 900 percent among minors, according to a 2016 Surgeon General study.

“I feel like now it’s more of a joke because so many people like know about it and it’s kind of just a lot of people do,” said 18-year-old Rockville High School student Claudia Duquette.

Experts believe Juul could also be causing minors to become addicted to nicotine.

Ahmed Tariq, manager of Discount Tobacco and Vape in Vernon, said he insists he is diligent about not selling Juul to the youth.

“If he looks like 27 I’ll check their ID,” Tariq said. And if they are under, under 18 I cannot sell.”

His store is one of 40 retailers that recently received letters from the FDA warning against selling Juul to minors.

Tariq said law enforcement officials stopped by the store to make sure they were complying with the law.

“We got a surprise check up by the FDA and by the local police,” Tariq said.

The 55-year-old’s experience as a former smoker and a tobacco store manager gives him a unique perspective about how serious the issue is.

“I got addicted. I started smoking when I was 13. So yeah,” he said.

The restrictions on minors and vaping haven’t stopped kids and teens from trying to get their hands on Juul.

And when they do, the e-cigarettes are easy to hide.

They can fit in the palm of your hand. They can even be charged in the USB drive of a computer, allowing students to pass them off as flash drives.

Duquette said a lot of her classmates at Rockville High School who vape try to be discrete.

“No one really does it like out in the open just because like you’re at school and stuff and even when we’re hanging out it’s not like I’m going to go and Vape for a little bit,” she said.

Even though Claudia’s friends tell her they’re not addicted to it she thinks otherwise.

The 40 FDA warning letters went to retailers in 17 different states including four in Connecticut.