Durbin Statement On Trump Administration's New E-Cigarette Flavor Policy

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today released the following statement after the Trump Administration announced that it will ban the sale of some flavored e-cigarette pods and cartridge products, such as those used in JUUL devices.  However, in a major reversal, menthol flavored pods will be exempt from this ban and vape shops will be mostly exempt by being allowed to continue selling flavored liquid nicotine used in “open tank systems”—these products often come in flavors such as cotton candy and gummy bear.

“During a briefing with the Administration this morning, I told officials that I would judge our success in stopping the youth vaping epidemic by two standards: first, are fewer American children becoming addicted to e-cigarettes and vaping products like JUUL.  And second, are we developing a national strategy to end nicotine addiction to vaping that already impacts the lives of five million kids.  

“While today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, this policy still has a number of gaping holes.  For instance, we should be removing all e-cigarette flavors from the market – including menthol – as was promised four months ago.  And we should not be exempting flavored nicotine products that kids can access in vape shops.  There is simply no public health benefit to allowing cotton candy and gummy bear nicotine flavors to remain on vape shop shelves.

“I believe that today’s announcement is a positive step, but it is far from a comprehensive one.” 

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.

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 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.