On Senate Floor, Durbin Announces Support For Biden FDA Commissioner Nominee, But Urges Immediate Action On Vaping Epidemic

Durbin reiterates that Dr. Robert Califf, if confirmed, must finally use FDA authority to regulate e-cigarette industry

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced his support for President Biden’s pick to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Robert Califf. In offering his endorsement, Durbin emphasized that, if confirmed, Dr. Califf must rectify mistakes of past leaders and ensure that FDA takes immediate action to crack down on e-cigarette companies—and their Big Tobacco partners—in order to protect the public health, especially our nation’s children.

“In 2009, Congress passed a landmark law giving the Food and Drug Administration the clear authority and responsibility to regulate tobacco products.  That was something Big Tobacco had fought for decades, but they lost. The Tobacco Control Act requires tobacco companies to obtain FDA approval for any new tobacco products. In a specific effort to discourage young people from smoking, the law also bans most flavored cigarettes because of their clear role in hooking young people...But tobacco companies didn’t take this lying down,” said Durbin. “They came up with new products to hook kids – e-cigarettes.”

“The FDA still failed to use its existing statutory authority to police these e-cigarette products—allowing millions of e-cigarettes to flood the market illegally, while their manufacturers made outrageous and unsubstantiated claims downplaying the risks to kids. In 2019, finally a federal judge stepped in and ordered the FDA to do its job—instructing them to finalize review of e-cigarettes…by September 2021, last September. The FDA’s court-ordered deadline to act on pending e-cigarette applications passed five months ago,” Durbin continued.

Durbin went on to discuss how the nation has made great strides with respect to youth use of traditional cigarettes, but how that progress is in jeopardy with skyrocketing rates of e-cigarette use among middle-school and high-school children.  Much of this backslide can be attributed to delays and inaction out of the FDA, which currently has the authority to regulate e-cigarettes, but has not acted quickly or with purpose—as evidenced by the fact that e-cigarette market-leaders such as JUUL and Vuse are still sold in U.S. stores without FDA authorization, nearly five months past a court-ordered deadline for FDA to act.

“Yesterday, I spoke with Dr. Califf, who is [President] Biden’s nominee to be head of the FDA…I said, ‘yes, Dr. Califf, I’ll support you. But if you make it, I’m going to hold you personally responsible for taking control of this issue [vaping]. Our kids’ lives are at stake,’” said Durbin. “We’ve waited too long. The FDA has sat on its hands when it should be moving to protect our kids. It’s long overdue. In the interest of our children, I sincerely hope that the leadership of the FDA will open its eyes and do its duty.”

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.