To curb teen vaping epidemic, DeGette files bill to crack down on e-cig flavors

Mar 5, 2019
Press Release
Legislation would ban sale of kid-friendly nicotine flavors experts say has caused recent spike in use

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to curb the steep rise in teens vaping across the country, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) filed legislation today to crack down on the often kid-friendly flavors of nicotine used in e-cigarettes.

The legislation – known as the SAFE Kids Act – gives e-cigarette manufactures one year to prove to the federal Food and Drug Administration that kid-friendly flavorings in e-cigarettes – such as “gummy bear,” “cotton candy,” “tutti fruitti,” and “cookies ‘n cream” – are used solely to help adults stop smoking cigarettes and do not lead to increased use among teens or cause any additional harm to users. If e-cigarette manufacturers cannot prove to the FDA that all three of those claims are true within one year of DeGette’s bill being signed into law, they would no longer be allowed to sell or manufacturer flavored nicotine products in the United States.

“The number of teens using e-cigarettes is skyrocketing,” DeGette said. “We have to do more to protect our children from the dangers of nicotine; and most experts agree that the kid-friendly flavors these e-cigarette manufactures are selling are one of the leading causes of this recent spike in use. To stop this epidemic, we must address the root cause of the problem by cracking down on the sale of these flavors that kids find so enticing.”

The move comes as e-cigarette use among middle-and high school students across the country continues to rise. And, according to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General, much of the popularity associated with teen vaping can be attributed to the appealing candy and fruit flavorings that accompany such devices.

DeGette’s home state of Colorado has the nation’s highest rate of teenagers reportedly using e-cigarettes. Proponents of the legislation say it’s a necessary to protect children from the dangers of tobacco use, which remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and responsible for killing more than 480,000 people annually – more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined.

“Flavored tobacco products play a key role in causing kids to start and continue using tobacco, and flavors have fueled the skyrocketing e-cigarette epidemic that is addicting a new generation,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which supports the bill. “Prohibiting tobacco products in kid-friendly flavors is one of the most important actions we can take to reverse the e-cigarette epidemic and continue driving down youth tobacco use.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, while cigarette use among high school students in the U.S. has reached an all-time low – dropping from 28 percent in 2000 to just eight percent in 2016 – the use of e-cigarettes among high school students during that same time, from 2011 to 2015, has increased more than ten-fold – from 1.5 percent to 16 percent.

And despite claims by e-cigarette manufacturers that their flavorings are made primarily to help adults quit traditional cigarettes, only three percent of adults use e-cigarettes, whereas 12 percent of kids are now using the products. A recent study by Dartmouth College found that for every one adult who quits smoking as a result of using e-cigarettes, 81 more children have developed a regular smoking habit as a result of using the product.

The SAFE Kids Act is supported by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the Lung Cancer Alliance, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Respiratory Health Association, and Children’s Hospital Colorado.

The legislation (H.R. 1498), which DeGette filed today in the U.S. House of Representatives, now heads to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where the Colorado Democrat serves as a senior member, for consideration. An identical companion bill was also filed in the U.S. Senate today by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

A copy of DeGette’s legislation (H.R. 1498) is available here.

And here’s a summary of the bill:

The SAFE Kids Act of 2019

Restricts flavoring in e-cigarette products. The bill gives e-cigarette manufacturers one year to prove to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that e-cigarette flavorings meet the following three criteria:

  • (1)   Help adults quit smoking real cigarettes;
  • (2)   Do not increase youth initiation of nicotine or tobacco products; and
  • (3)   Do not increase the risk of harm to the person using the flavor
  • If companies cannot prove that their flavorings in e-cigarettes meet all three criteria above, they will not be allowed to manufacturer or sell them in the United States.

Bans flavorings in cigars. The bill bans the use of all flavors in cigars within one year.