Durbin: For The Sake Of Our Children, FDA Must Get Off Sidelines To Address Vaping Epidemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today, in a speech on the Senate floor, discussed the Trump Administration’s back-tracking on a plan to ban all e-cigarette flavors—including mint and menthol—and called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take additional steps to curb our nation’s youth vaping epidemic. With five million children nationwide now vaping—a 135 percent increase over the last two years of this presidency—urgent, comprehensive action is needed now to ensure another generation of children does not become addicted to nicotine.

“Last week's announcement is not what the President said would happen in the Oval Office a few months ago, and that's why the public health community, and this Senator, are so disappointed. We know why the President decided to water down the e-cigarette flavor ban: heavy lobbying by Big Tobacco and Big Vape were behind it,” Durbin said.

On September 11, 2019, President Trump held a press conference in the Oval Office, vowing to remove all e-cigarette flavors from the market. After intense lobbying from Big Tobacco and Big Vape companies, the Administration instead decided to only ban certain pod- and cartridge-based e-cigarette flavors (like those used with the JUUL e-cigarette device), while exempting menthol. Further, President Trump opted to exempt all liquid nicotine flavors from the ban.  Durbin slammed President Trump for caving to pressure from the vaping industry and exempting menthol flavored pods from his ban and allowing vape shops to continue selling flavored liquid nicotine used in “open tank systems”—these products often come in flavors such as cotton candy and gummy bear.

Going forward—because of a court order—all e-cigarette companies will have to submit applications to the FDA by May if they wish to keep their devices or flavors on the market. The FDA will have up to one year to decide if each individual e-cigarette product is allowed to remain on the market. If a company does not submit an application, its product would have to come off the market immediately. Durbin called on the FDA to reject the applications of any vaping products that are clearly designed to appeal to children, that are used significantly or predominantly by children, or that addict children to nicotine.

“There are ways to preserve e-cigarette access for adult smokers without allowing an entire generation of kids to become hooked to nicotine in the process. This means getting rid of all the flavors, taking illegal products off the market immediately, and rejecting e-cigarette applications that fail to show a strong public health benefit,” Durbin continued.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

Five million children are now vaping, including more than one in four high school students and more than one in ten middle-school students.  Between 2017 and 2018, America saw 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 30 percent of school-aged children are vaping, compared with less than four percent of adults in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2,561 people have been sickened by vaping related illnesses, with 55 deaths reported—including five in Illinois.  The illnesses have spread across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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.

In September, Durbin, along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), urged FDA to immediately remove all pod- and cartridge-based e-cigarettes from the market, unless or until they can prove that they benefit the public health.