With More And More Young People All-Out Addicted To Flavors, Schumer Says Close Loophole Now & Finalize Rule ASAP
Just as the administration wavers on a possible ban on flavored e-cigarettes, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, standing at Depew High School in Buffalo, today sounded the alarm on the administration backing away from a plan to tackle the e-cigarette youth epidemic, launched a fight to pass comprehensive legislation, and re-upped his call for finalization of the rule ASAP. Schumer cited reports that the administration has reversed course on its prior commitments to stop youth e-cig usage.
As well, Sen. Schumer said that even if the administration moves forward, he is extremely concerned that it will allow a few very popular flavors to remain on the market, thereby leaving a massive loophole for kids to keep using e-cigarettes. Schumer demanded the FDA snap back into action and do this right the first time and not make any exceptions for flavors.
Furthermore, Schumer doubled down on his push to pass the bipartisan Stopping Appealing Flavors in E-Cigarettes for Kids (SAFE Kids) Act, which would codify a ban on all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette products, saying that federal legislation is that much more necessary now that the administration is turning its back on its prior commitments.
Additionally, he continued to call on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), along with the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG), to launch a coordinated national strategy and awareness campaign on youth e-cigarette use to ensure the epidemic receives the federal attention it requires.
“Even though the administration is pulling back on its plan to ban e-cigarette flavors that manufacturers use to hook teenagers, Congress’s urgent need to protect the health and well-being of Western New York children and young adults and end this epidemic remains unchanged. If we are going to tackle the all-out crisis of youth vaping and the flavor explosion fueling addiction and related health issues, we must get these flavors off the shelves, full stop,” said Senator Schumer.
“That’s why I’m proud to push a new two-pronged approach to curb youth e-cigarette use by sponsoring legislation to ban kid-friendly flavors and calling for a coordinated, national educational campaign and strategy to warn children of the serious dangers of these products. The e-cigarette epidemic is spreading through Western New York like a wildfire, and it’s high time for us all to catch up,” the Senator added.
Even though the FDA compliance policy was announced on September 11, 2019, it has faced significant delays and its status is now in question. However, given the rapid increase in e-cigarette popularity, Schumer stressed an urgent need to act quickly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall proportion of high school students that use e-cigarettes doubled from 11.7 percent to 20.8 percent between 2017 and 2018. This means that there were a staggering 1.5 million more youth e-cigarette users in 2018 than in 2017. Last year, the rate of overall tobacco use among high school students jumped from 19.6 percent to 27.1 percent, an increase of 7.5 percent that is largely attributed to e-cigarette use.
As Schumer advocated for putting an end to the proliferation of appealing e-cigarettes flavors on the market, he also mentioned that the short and long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are still unclear. With this in mind, Schumer said that our youth cannot be subjected to a potential lifetime of nicotine addiction without knowing the full consequences of using these devices.
Schumer referenced the ongoing outbreak of lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use, which has resulted in the hospitalization of nearly 180 New Yorkers due to vaporizer use in recent months. Furthermore, the CDC has confirmed 42 deaths from e-cigarette use, spread across 24 states and the District of Columbia. To date, the agency has reported at least 2,172 cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use from 49 states (all except Alaska), the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories.
Schumer said that these statistics and the uncertainty surrounding the administration’s pending compliance policy demonstrate a pressing need to address the e-cigarette epidemic with full force, using an all-hands-on-deck and all-of-the-above approach.
Therefore, Schumer called on his colleagues in Congress to expediently pass the bipartisan Stopping Appealing Flavors in E-Cigarettes for Kids (SAFE Kids) Act. The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senator Schumer, was introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in the Senate and has a House companion.
Specifically, the bill would ensure that all e-cigarette flavors are pulled from the market. Schumer said that by advertising these and other types of flavors, companies are clearly directing their efforts toward ensnaring children and getting them hooked on their products, and that they must be stopped without further delay.
The legislation contains a provision that would allow for the reintroduction of certain flavors back to the marketplace, but only if companies prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their products: help adults stop smoking traditional cigarettes, do not increase the rates of youth tobacco and nicotine use, and do not increase the likelihood of a user falling ill.
According to a recent Sienna Poll, 78% of New Yorkers think e-cigarette use and vaping are serious problems and a large majority (61%) support a ban on flavors.
Second, Schumer urged HHS, in tandem with the FDA, CDC, and OSG, to implement a long-term strategy to educate the groundbreaking number of youth e-cigarette users and prevent additional youth from starting use of e-cigarettes.
Schumer explained that while he appreciates recent actions taken by these agencies to curb e-cigarette use, including the Surgeon General’s advisory issued in December 2018 and the FDA’s recent move to clear the market of all unauthorized, non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes, due to the unprecedented scale of the youth e-cigarette epidemic, more must be done. Schumer also highlighted the FDA’s “Real Cost Campaign” as an important resource that cannot solve this crisis alone, as almost 80% of middle and high school students do not believe that e-cigarette use is harmful to their health and well-being.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that are designed to resemble traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain a mechanism inside the device that heats up liquid nicotine and transforms it into a vapor that users then inhale and exhale. Unlike conventional cigarettes, however, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, a key difference that has led some to deem e-cigarettes safer to smoke.
Yet, not all health risks are known, and some studies have highlighted the dangers of e-cigarettes. For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that some higher voltage e-cigarettes can contain cancer-causing formaldehyde at levels up to fifteen times more than regular cigarettes. In addition, e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a chemical that has been shown to have negative health impacts on adolescent brain development.
Earlier this year, Schumer was successful in a push to get the outgoing FDA Commissioner to take action on kid-friendly flavors domestically.