May 16 (UPI) -- A federal judge has directed the Food and Drug Administration to speed up its review of electronic cigarettes, saying the delays amount to a dereliction of duty.
Maryland U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm on Wednesday gave the FDA two weeks to submit a specific plan of action for reviewing e-cigarettes; manufacturers will have to comply. Grimm said "manufacturers long have been on notice" that they will have to submit their products for FDA reviews.
"[I]f they have chosen to delay their preparations to do so, then any hardship occasioned by their now having to comply is of their own making," Grimm said.
The FDA said it's reviewing the decision.
The agency was given authority to regulate e-cigarettes in 2016 but when the Trump administration took over, the FDA delayed enforcement until 2022. A lawsuit filed in a Maryland court last year by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups argued that the FDA's delay led to an increase in underage vaping. E-cigarette makers were able to bring their products to market with little to no regulation or standards.
"[FDA] has and will continue to tackle the troubling epidemic of e-cigarette use among kids," an FDA spokesman said. "This includes preventing youth access to, and appeal of, flavored tobacco products like e-cigarettes and cigars, taking action against manufacturers and retailers who illegally market or sell these products to minors, and educating youth about the dangers of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products."
Groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which is also part of the lawsuit, have called vaping among teenagers an epidemic.
Also on Wednesday, North Carolina's attorney general filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette company Juul accusing it of "unfair and deceptive" marketing practices that led to an "epidemic" among young people. It's the first time a state has taken action against Juul, which has 74 percent of the market share in the United States.
The lawsuit would require Juul to stop selling e-cigarettes to minors, limit the flavors sold, stop advertising and marketing practices geared toward minors and delete all data for customers under age 18.
Juul said in a statement it hasn't seen the complaint yet but it also has concerns about youth vaping, "which is why we have been cooperating with his office and why we have taken the most aggressive actions of anyone in the industry to combat youth usage."