Durbin: Raising Federal Tobacco Age Is A Good Step, But Does Not Address Youth Vaping Epidemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today in a speech on the Senate floor addressed the Tobacco to 21 (T21) provision included in the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill. Durbin, who introduced the Tobacco to 21 Act this April and is a longtime supporter of the policy, expressed his concern that the T21 provision, on its own, does not address the youth vaping epidemic. Durbin, who was prevented from including real reforms in the appropriations bill that would help reduce the number of children vaping, reiterated his call for an e-cigarette flavor ban that protects our nation’s children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction. Such a ban is supported by the public health community. Durbin also noted that tobacco and vaping giants like Altria and JUUL now, after years of opposition, support T21 because they believe it will help them avoid scrutiny for their targeted efforts to hook kids on e-cigarettes.

“Any serious solution to skyrocketing rates of youth e-cigarette use must include the removal of kid-friendly flavors, not just the tobacco industry's preferred policy,” Durbin said.

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.

Durbin also called out the President for caving to lobbying pressure from Big Tobacco and Big Vape, breaking his promise to protect our nation’s children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction. For years, e-cigarette use among children has skyrocketed nationwide, leading the Trump Administration to finally announce—on September 11, 2019—that it would soon ban all non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors “within weeks.”  Now, more than three months later, no ban has been put in place.

Five million children are now vaping, including more than one in four high school students—an increase of 135 percent over the past two years alone.  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.

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 April, Durbin, along with Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Todd Young (R-IN), and Mitt Romney (R-UT), introduced the Tobacco to 21 Act, bipartisan legislation that would prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to anyone under the age of 21 nationwide.