Durbin Calls Out FDA On Senate Floor For Six Month Delay In Regulating E-Cigarettes

Durbin highlights passage of synthetic nicotine legislation, demands that FDA use its authority to remove kid-friendly vaping products from the market

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today blasted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to meet a court deadline to complete its public health review of e-cigarette premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs). The deadline for FDA to finish reviewing e-cigarette applications was September 9, 2021, more than six months ago.


While the FDA neglects its responsibility under the law and court order to regulate e-cigarettes, tobacco corporations have peddled vaping products like JUUL to addict millions of children with flavors like watermelon, lemon ice, and blue razz without FDA authorization.


“The issue at stake is whether or not the Food and Drug Administration will do its job to prevent children in America from getting hooked on e-cigarettes that are being peddled by Big Tobacco companies in violation of the law. The Tobacco Control Act, the law of the land, requires tobacco products be reviewed by the FDA before they can even be sold. The law says that tobacco companies must prove to the FDA that their product is ‘appropriate for the protection of public health.’ They can’t meet that standard. Everyone knows it. If they don’t meet it, they’re not supposed to be sold in the United States… But instead of doing its job, the FDA turned a blind eye for years at e-cigarettes and vaping – many funded by the largest cigarette corporations like RJ Reynolds and Altria. Those companies flooded the market with flavored e-cigarettes meant to hook our kids. The result – millions of children became addicted to e-cigarettes,” Durbin said.


In a ploy to circumvent further regulation, e-cigarette manufacturers have attempted to sell their product under the guise of “synthetic nicotine,” instead of nicotine derived from tobacco, to claim that the product is outside of FDA’s jurisdiction. The most popular e-cigarette used by children, Puff Bar, uses synthetic nicotine.  Durbin and U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patty Murray (D-WA) led efforts to close this loophole in the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill. 


“The fiscal year 2022 omnibus bill that passed last week contains a bipartisan provision that I worked on with Senators Collins and Murray. Our policy closes the synthetic nicotine loophole… It clarified that FDA has the authority to regulate synthetic nicotine products and to keep those e-cigarettes off the market. Congress is saying clearly that we will not allow predatory vaping companies to target kids for profit. Now it is FDA’s duty to do the same,” Durbin said.


Last week, Durbin led a bipartisan letter with 14 of his colleagues calling on FDA to finish its review of e-cigarettes immediately; reject applications for e-cigarettes, especially kid-friendly flavors, that do not prove they will benefit the public health; and clear the market of all unapproved e-cigarettes.


Durbin concluded his speech with a call to action for new FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf to rid the market of addictive, harmful e-cigarette products before more children get hooked.


“Last month, the Senate approved Dr. Califf. I made it clear that I wanted him to treat this matter as an urgent requirement to clear the backlog [on FDA reviews of all e-cigarettes]. Congress has now given him every tool he needs... It’s time for FDA to do its job and protect America’s children from Big Tobacco and their candy-flavored, sickness-causing e-cigarettes,” Durbin concluded.


Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.