Durbin to First Lady Melania Trump: Don't Abandon E-Cigarette Flavor Ban
Three Months Have Passed Since White House Promised It Would Rid The Market Of Kid-Friendly E-cigarette Flavors
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today sent a letter to the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump, urging her not to abandon her interest and position on protecting children from the dangers of e-cigarettes. Exactly three months ago on September 11, the First Lady joined President Trump, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and then-Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to announce that the Trump Administration would ban all non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors, including mint and menthol, “within weeks.” During the meeting, President Trump acknowledged that the First Lady brought this issue to his attention. Three months after the promise was made, the Administration has yet to implement an e-cigarette ban and has seemingly reversed course.
“During the last two years of your husband’s presidency, our nation has experienced a 135 percent increase in the number of children using e-cigarettes. Today, more than five million children are vaping—including more than one in four high-school students and more than one in ten middle-school students,” Durbin wrote. “Given your strong personal interest in this issue, it is my hope that the position protecting our children, which you stood up for in September, will not be abandoned.”
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 high-school children are vaping, compared with less than four percent of adults. E-cigarette flavors—such as gummy bear, whipped cream, cool mint, fruit medley, and sugar cookie—are a major reason why children begin vaping.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2,000 people have been sickened by vaping related illnesses, with 48 deaths reported—including four in Illinois. The illnesses have spread across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).
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 today’s letter is available here and below:
December 11, 2019
Dear Mrs. Trump:
Exactly three months ago, you participated in an Oval Office meeting, to announce an important policy change to address skyrocketing rates of e-cigarette use among children. At this meeting, you and the President—along with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and then-Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration—announced that all non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors, including mint and menthol, would soon be removed from the market unless or until they could prove a net public health benefit.
Along with all major public health, education, and parent organizations, I cheered this long-overdue action as a vital and necessary step to protect millions of children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction. Sadly, three months later, it appears that the President is reversing his position and breaking his promise to our nation’s children.
During the last two years of your husband’s presidency, our nation has experienced a 135 percent increase in the number of children using e-cigarettes. Today, more than five million children are vaping—including more than one in four high-school students and more than one in ten middle-school students. Nearly 30 percent of school-aged children are vaping, compared with less than four percent of adults. And we know that e-cigarette flavors—including mint and menthol—are why children get hooked on e-cigarettes. We also know that children who use e-cigarettes are significantly more likely than their peers to start smoking tobacco cigarettes. This should be alarming to all of us who care about our nation’s children, as cigarettes—both tobacco and electronic—have well-documented negative health effects.
Because of these harms, I was pleased by the Administration’s September 11 announcement. It meant that e-cigarette flavors designed and marketed to children—flavors such as gummy bear, sugar cookie, whipped cream, fruit medley, and cool mint—would no longer be in reach of our kids. However, three months later, implementation of this policy has stalled, and dangerous and addictive e-cigarette products have been allowed to remain on the market without regulation.
At that Oval Office meeting, the President stated, “Vaping has become a very big business … But we can’t allow people to get sick, and we can’t have our youth be so affected. And I’m hearing it. And that’s how the First Lady got involved. I mean, she’s got a son—together—that is a beautiful, young man, and she feels very, very strongly about it.” Given your strong personal interest in this issue, it is my hope that the position protecting our children, which you stood up for in September, will not be abandoned.
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