Durbin Sends Bipartisan & Bicameral Letter to President Trump Urging For Final E-Cigarette Flavor Ban

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with U.S. Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08) and  Peter King (R-NY-02), led 25 Members of Congress in a bipartisan letter urging President Trump to stick to his promise to ban kid-friendly e-cigarette flavors, including mint and menthol. 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, nearly three months later, no ban has been put in place.

“I'm hoping President Trump cares more about children than he does about lobbying pressure from Big Tobacco and Big Vape companies,” Durbin said. “At stake is the health of more than five million kids who are now vaping in America. This epidemic demands action now, and the President must stick with his September promise to remove kid-friendly flavors—including mint and menthol—from the market immediately.”

Five million children are now vaping, including 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.

Cosigners of the letter include Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Representatives Chris Stewart (R-UT-02), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY-03), Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), Haley Stevens (D-MI-11), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30), Harley Rouda (D-CA-48), Julia Brownley (D-CA-26), Angie Craig (D-MN-02), Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08), Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08), Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM-03), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), Grace Meng (D-NY-06), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09).

The letter is supported by The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Truth Initiative, Parents Against Vaping e-Cigarettes (PAVe), Center on Addiction, Respiratory Health Association, American Association for Respiratory Care, Academy of General Dentistry, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, American Association for Cancer Research, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, American Association of Women Dentists, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Oncology Nursing Society, National Association for Secondary School Principals, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, Eta Sigma Gamma, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons, American Student Dental Association, Society for Public Health Education, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Dental Association, American Association of Endodontists, American College of Cardiology.

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. 

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

December 2, 2019 

Dear Mr. President:

Over two months ago, you, along with Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless, made an encouraging announcement that your administration would be issuing a compliance policy designed to clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol flavors. 

With nearly 28% of American high schoolers and 10.5% of middle schoolers vaping, this announcement was an important step in the right direction in order to protect our children and end this public health crisis. Unfortunately, this guidance has yet to be finalized. This is particularly concerning because nicotine exposure can harm adolescent brain development, and using nicotine during adolescence can increase the risk of future addiction to cigarettes and other drugs.

Our children should not be used as guinea pigs by the tobacco industry. As members of the Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic and elected officials concerned about youth health and safety, we have made it a priority to tackle the most pressing public health needs facing our country. We have heard from countless parents, teachers, and health professionals in our districts who are concerned about skyrocketing youth e-cigarette use.

We urge you to finalize the removal of all flavors from the market pending product reviews by FDA in a complete and expedited fashion. Importantly, any guidance on flavored e-cigarettes must include mint and menthol, which have been proven popular with youth, and apply to all retailers.  In fact, former FDA Acting Commissioner Sharpless stated this year that the FDA “must act swiftly against flavored e-cigarette products that are especially attractive to children.” Further, Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, testified before the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy that for the removal of flavored products from the market to be effective mint and menthol must be included. Finally, as bipartisan members of the House and Senate dedicated to combatting youth vaping, we request our inclusion in future conversations regarding this compliance policy. 

The meteoric rise in youth vaping is a public health crisis threatening the health and safety of American youth. In order to end it, we need a bold, bipartisan solution such as a comprehensive e-cigarette flavor guidance in accordance to your original promise on September 11, 2019. We hope you will take this request into consideration and thank you for your time.