Durbin Calls On FDA To Act As Teen E-Cigarette Use Surpasses Traditional Tobacco Products

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today in response to new data showing that more U.S. teenagers are using e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes:

“Thanks to decades of strong federal regulations and effective public health efforts, like the CDC’s recent “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign, youth tobacco use is finally on the decline. But these hard-won gains are at risk if we fail to address a gateway to tobacco addiction: e-cigarettes,” Durbin said.

“While the FDA continues to drag its feet on finalizing commonsense regulations to protect children and teenagers from the dangers of e-cigarettes, more and more young people are getting hooked on this potentially deadly habit. Every day the FDA fails to move forward with federal regulation is another opportunity for Big Tobacco to peddle its newest product unchecked. The scientific evidence has never been clearer: strong regulatory action on e-cigarettes cannot wait.”

Data showing teen use of e-cigarettes surpassing use of traditional cigarettes was released today as part of the Monitoring the Future survey, which has been conducted annually by researchers at the University of Michigan since 1975. Each year, 40,000 to 50,000 students are surveyed at about 400 secondary schools from across the country. Today’s survey found that twice as many eight and tenth graders reporting using e-cigarettes as compared to traditional cigarettes. For example, among tenth graders, 16.2 percent reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, while only 7.2 percent reported using a traditional cigarette. Of primary concern is whether high levels of e-cigarette use will counteract gains from reductions in cigarette smoking. The survey found that across eight, tenth, and twelfth graders, the combined prevalence for smoking tobacco cigarettes was 8%, down from 28% in 1998. Additional information on the Monitoring the Future survey is available here.

These numbers are much higher than the latest statistics on e-cigarette use published in November by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey. That survey showed that 4.5 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes, a threefold increase in reported levels of use since 2011.

The August 2014 CDC report found that number of middle school and high school students in the United States who have tried e-cigarettes – but not traditional cigarettes – increased three-fold between 2011 and 2013, reaching more than 260,000 youth. Most troublingly, the report found that those youth who have used e-cigarettes are almost twice as likely to intend to smoke conventional cigarettes. Previous scientific studies have shown that intent to smoke cigarettes is a valid predictor of future tobacco use. Earlier that month, the World Health Organization also released a report calling for a ban on the use of e-cigarettes indoors, an end to flavored e-cigarettes, and immediate regulation of e-cigarette advertising aimed at youth.

In April 2014, the FDA proposed a rule that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority to regulate e-cigarettes and other liquid nicotine delivery devices. The proposed rule fails to prohibit marketing to minors, the use of flavors, or online sales of e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery devices to minors. The FDA has not yet finalized these proposed regulations.