Durbin Calls For Acting Commissioner To Take Decisive Action To Stop The Vaping Epidemic Or Resign

CHICAGO – In the wake of hundreds of illnesses and multiple reported deaths of vaping-related lung disease, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) held a news conference to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take immediate action to address the public health epidemic of e-cigarettes, especially among children and young people. Last week, Durbin sent a letter calling on FDA Acting Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless to take decisive action within the next ten days to properly regulate e-cigarettes and the accompanying kid-friendly flavors. If he fails to act, Durbin will call for his resignation.

“Previously healthy young people are getting seriously ill because the FDA has failed to protect them from the dangers of e-cigarettes. Today, four million high-school and middle-school students are using e-cigarettes,” Durbin said.  “The FDA must immediately ban all e-cigarette flavors and devices that have not been approved for sale by the agency. The Acting FDA Commissioner has the power to do something, it’s time he uses it.”

As of September 6th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was reporting 450 possible cases of severe respiratory illness among people using e-cigarettes in 33 states, as well as five deaths in Illinois, Oregon, Indiana, California, and Minnesota.  As of September 4th, Illinois had 42 confirmed cases of vaping-related lung illness, and one death, across 17 counties—with 26 more cases being investigated as probable.  The median age of vaping-related illness in Illinois is 22 years old. Seventy-six percent of the Illinois patients needed to be placed in an intensive care unit, while 41 percent of the patients needed mechanical ventilation.

Over the past year alone, America has seen a 78 percent increase in the number of high-school children using e-cigarettes, and a 48 percent increase in the number of middle-school children using these addictive and dangerous products.  Today, nearly four million children are vaping.

In March, Durbin, along with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO-01) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08), reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to crack down on kid-friendly flavorings in highly-addictive e-cigarettes and cigars.  The Stopping Appealing Flavors in E-Cigarettes for Kids (SAFE Kids) Act will place strong restrictions on e-cigarette flavorings and ban cigar flavorings altogether.