Durbin, Lightfoot, Jackson Working To Educate, Protect Kids In Response To Youth Vaping Epidemic

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson today at Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School to discuss the impact of vaping and e-cigarette use on children and teenagers. The news conference comes on the heels of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) announcement last week that it will imminently ban all non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors, including mint and menthol. On Friday, Durbin sent a letter to U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, urging him to take immediate action to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic and assist children currently addicted to nicotine.

“Vaping targets kids,” Senator Durbin said. While I support FDA’s announcement to remove all e-cigarette flavors from the market, it’s long overdue. The years of delay and inaction by the FDA leaves us with five million children using e-cigarettes and the reality that many of these children may now have nicotine addictions. We need an immediate strategy to educate our children and to support those who are addicted so that they are not sentenced to a lifetime of using nicotine products.

“The use of e-cigarettes and vaping products are threatening to get another generation hooked on nicotine and undo the progress Chicago has made in reducing tobacco use,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “While the City has taken action to ban vaping in our schools and to educate parents on the dangers of these products, my administration is committed to going much further by working alongside our community leaders and health experts to prevent minors from ever picking up these harmful products and to protect the health of our young people.”

“E-cigarette use has skyrocketed among young people throughout the country, and in Chicago we're taking steps to protect our students from this epidemic and inform our families about the dangers of vaping,” said Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “We thank Senator Durbin for leading this fight and advocating for the much-needed protections that will help keep our kids healthy.”

Durbin’s Friday letter to Surgeon General Adams calls on him to develop and launch a national strategy to educate, prevent, and help address a wave of youth nicotine addiction and prevent the transition to cigarettes or harmful nicotine devices. Preliminary data revealed last week shows that five million children are “frequently” vaping – therefore, a national strategy led by the Surgeon General is needed to help address this public health crisis.   

Illinois has 52 confirmed cases of vaping-related lung disease—with 12 more cases under investigation—and one reported death. The median age of vaping-related lung disease in Illinois is 22 years old, with the youngest reported victim being 15 years old.

According to the most recent public health data from CDC, America has seen a 32 percent increase in the number of high-school children using e-cigarettes over the last year—with five million teens currently using e-cigarettes, including one in four high school students. This alarming increase comes on top of a 78 percent increase in the number of high-school children using e-cigarettes between 2017 and 2018, and a 48 percent increase in the number of middle-school children using these addictive and dangerous products.

In March, Durbin and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), along with 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.