Congresswoman Diana DeGette

Representing the First District of Colorado
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
YouTube icon
Instagram icon

Lawmakers call on administration to ban flavored vaping products

Jan 23, 2020
Press Release
More than 50 members of Congress sign letter calling on executive branch to act to curb teen-vaping epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 50 members of Congress – led by U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) – today called on the Trump administration to issue new rules banning the sale of flavored nicotine products that experts say have led to the nation’s teen-vaping epidemic.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the lawmakers called on the administration to revise its newly released guidance regarding e-cigarettes – which experts warn will do little to stop the nationwide teen vaping epidemic – to ban the sale of the often kid-friendly flavored nicotine products that have attracted an increased number of adolescents to begin vaping.

“This short-sighted policy fails to provide the comprehensive response needed to end this public health crisis,” the lawmakers wrote. “We have the chance to protect the next generation of Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine. We urge you to immediately revise this guidance and remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market.”

DeGette, who serves as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee – which oversees HHS – announced yesterday that the panel will hold a hearing Feb. 5 to investigate the role that e-cigarette manufactures have played in the nation’s teen-vaping epidemic. The Colorado Democrat, whose home state has the nation’s highest rate of teenagers now vaping, introduced legislation in March seeking to ban the sale of flavored nicotine products nationwide.

“The data shows that once a teen starts using flavored vaping products – such as bubble gum, cotton candy or tutti-frutti – their chances of becoming addicted to nicotine nearly doubles,” DeGette said. “We must do more to protect our teens from the dangers of e-cigarettes.”

The number of teens using e-cigarettes in the U.S has reached alarming levels in recent years. According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, last year, more than five million adolescents had reported using e-cigarettes – up from 3.6 million who reported such use the year before.

To address the growing public health crisis, the Trump Administration announced in September that it would “clear the markets” of all flavored e-cigarettes. However, the policy the administration eventually rolled out earlier this month fell far short of that promise and the lawmakers warn it “will not help turn the tide in this public health crisis.”

“This policy exempts open tank-based products, disposable flavored e-cigarettes and certain flavored e-cigarette cartridges, including menthol and even tobacco,” the lawmakers wrote. “These exemptions are all but certain to increase the popularity of refillable flavor pod systems such as Suorin and Smok, which are the most popular flavored e-cigarette products among adolescents after JUUL. In addition, this guidance will not eliminate the nearly 15,000 e-cigarette flavors available on the market—many of which come in kid-appealing flavors such as gummy bear and s’mores—as children will be able to access them through tank-based systems.”

According to the FDA, 97% of teens vaping used a flavored nicotine product. The agency has also found that 70% of children who began vaping in middle or high school did so because there was an appealing flavor – such as mango or cookies ‘n cream – available.

A copy of the letter is available here.

Following is the full text:

January 23, 2020

Alex M. Azar, II

Secretary

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20201

 

Dear Secretary Azar:

We write to you today to express our disappointment with the guidance, “Enforcement Priorities for Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and other Deemed Products on the Market Without Premarket Authorization” finalized on January 2, 2020.

Youth e-cigarette use in the United States has reached alarming levels. The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that more than 5 million adolescents use e-cigarettes, up from 3.6 million in 2018. On December 18, 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory calling this uptick an “epidemic.” E-cigarettes pose a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of American children.

The nicotine in e-cigarettes is a highly addictive substance that can hamper healthy brain development in adolescents. More specifically, it can impact a child’s ability to learn and concentrate, skills critical for success in the classroom. Additionally, nicotine exposure at a young age can increase a child’s risk of developing other substance use disorders, including drug addiction. Furthermore, the aerosol of e-cigarettes often contains dangerous substances such as volatile organic compounds and heavy metals that pose a danger to children’s lung health. It is clear that the substances in e-cigarettes are detrimental to a child’s development.

Flavors in e-cigarettes often engender youth use of these tobacco products. The FDA reports that 97% of youth e-cigarette users vaped a flavored e-cigarette and a large share of children that began using these products did so because of their appealing flavors such as mango and cookies ‘n cream. Recognizing the role of flavors in e-cigarettes, President Donald J. Trump and you stated an intention on September 11, 2019 to the “clear the markets” of all flavored e-cigarettes. The finalized guidance released on January 2, 2020 falls well short of this and will not help turn the tide in this public health crisis.

We are deeply alarmed that this policy exempts open tank-based products, disposable flavored e-cigarettes and certain flavored e-cigarette cartridges, including menthol and even tobacco. These exemptions are all but certain to increase the popularity of refillable flavor pod systems such as Suorin and Smok, which are the most popular flavored e-cigarette products among adolescents after JUUL. In addition, this guidance will not eliminate the nearly 15,000 e-cigarette flavors available on the market—many of which come in kid-appealing flavors such as gummy bear and s’mores—as children will be able to access them through tank-based systems. This short-sighted policy fails to provide the comprehensive response needed to end this public health crisis.

We have the chance to protect the next generation of Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine. We urge you to immediately revise this guidance and remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market.

Sincerely,