Durbin Presses Secretary Azar On Administration's E-Cigarette Flavor Policy & Family Separation

WASHINGTON – During a Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) pressed U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to reconsider the Trump Administration’s decision to allow cheap, disposable e-cigarette flavors to remain on the market.  Over the past two years of this presidency, our nation has seen a 135 percent increase in the number of children using e-cigarettes. Five million children are now vaping, including more than one in four high school students and more than one in ten middle-school students. 

“The President’s promise to remove all flavored e-cigarette products from the market within a ‘matter of weeks’ didn’t happen.  Instead, the President decided to exempt cheap, disposable e-cigarettes, like Mr. Fog’s ‘bubble gum’ flavor, Puff Bar’s ‘OMG’ flavor, and Stig’s ‘Mango Bomb’ flavor – not necessarily a product for people who are hardened smokers trying to quit.  It’s a product to attract kids,” Durbin said.  “I think it was a mistake to exempt these cheap, disposable products from the President’s so-called ‘flavor ban.’”

Durbin then pressed Secretary Azar on the Trump Administration’s disastrous family separation policy and whether or not the Administration has reunited all of the thousands of children who were forcibly separated from their parents at the southern border.  Durbin asked Azar about an HHS Inspector General investigation, requested by Senators Durbin and Murray and 39 other Senate colleagues, which found that thousands of additional children had been separated by the Trump Administration before the zero-tolerance policy was made public, and that the total number of children forcibly removed from their parents was unknown.       

“There was a study done at our request, but it came back and said that we can’t even find many of these kids and their parents.  Can you tell me at this point how many children are currently still separated from their parents pursuant to that zero-tolerance policy or the preceding policy, which had the same impact?” Durbin asked.

Secretary Azar said he would get back to Durbin with that information. 

Video of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here for TV Stations.