Krishnamoorthi bill would cap nicotine in e-cigarettes

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi introduced new legislation Monday aimed at capping the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes to combat its burgeoning use among youth.

This comes amid a rising death toll - 18 nationwide - from vaping-related lung and respiratory illnesses. Health officials warn vaping has become a teen epidemic.

The proposed legislation would cap e-cigarette nicotine concentrations at 20 milligrams per milliliter or "any lower level deemed minimally addictive or nonaddictive by the FDA" to make it less appealing to youth, the Schaumburg Democrat told a crowd Monday at a City Club of Chicago luncheon.

Similar caps enacted in the United Kingdom, European Union and Israel have helped stem the tide of youth vaping in those countries, Krishnamoorthi said.

"This nicotine cap has had a direct impact in deterring youth vaping," Krishnamoorthi said. "My bill presents a common-sense solution that has already shown success abroad."

In 2019, e-cigarette use within the previous month among high school students in the United States rose to nearly 28% - a 135% increase in the last two years - while less than 5% of youth in the United Kingdom are vaping, according to health agencies.

Before 2016, most e-cigarettes contained between 10 and 20 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter and today's "fourth generation e-cigarette devices" are significantly more addictive, containing three times the nicotine content of previous generations, Krishnamoorthi said.

"Juuls and other e-cigarettes in the U.S. contain as much as 59 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of e-liquid," Krishnamoorthi said of the leading e-cigarette brand in the market.

He cited studies by the New England Journal of Medicine showing adolescents are less likely to start vaping when e-cigarette pods contain less nicotine.

A Juul Labs Inc., spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Juul has long marketed e-cigarettes as an alternative for adults seeking to quit smoking and tobacco products. The company has denied marketing to youth.

Yet, facing mounting pressure from government officials and health agencies, Juul announced on Sept. 25 it is shutting down broadcast, print and digital advertising in the United States and ending lobbying efforts in Washington, along with the company's CEO stepping down and being replaced by a senior executive from Altria, the maker of Marlboro.

As of last week, 1,080 confirmed and probable cases of vaping-related illnesses have been reported in 48 states and one U.S. territory, including 18 deaths, one in Illinois, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than a third of patients are under 21, but deaths have been among older adults who apparently had more difficulty recovering.

Since July, the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Reform's Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which Krishnamoorthi chairs, has held multiple hearings on the vaping epidemic. At a hearing last month, CDC and state health officials testified that adolescent nicotine use could increase one's risk of future addiction to other drugs.

In mid-September, Krishnamoorthi, Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield and U.S. Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, launched a bipartisan Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic. Krishnamoorthi also has called for an immediate ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and a public information campaign to educate youths and families about its dangers.

President Donald Trump has also directed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue guidelines for the use of flavored e-cigarettes and the agency is proposing a new enforcement policy requiring e-cigarette manufacturers to take their products off the market pending FDA approval.

Federal lawmakers have proposed other key legislation aimed at permanently banning e-cigarette flavors that are attractive to teens and taxing e-cigarettes.

"By banning flavors, ending youth marketing and regulating the design and function of e-cigarettes, we are on our way to potentially ending this public health epidemic," Krishnamoorthi said. "We've seen public health epidemics before, whether it was combustible cigarette smoking or opioids ... let's not watch it play out again with regard to vaping."

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To date, 1,080 confirmed and probable cases of vaping-related illnesses have been reported in 48 states and one U.S. territory, including 18 deaths in 15 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Associated Press
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