Krishnamoorthi, Durbin propose fee on e-cigarette makers, importers

Proposed legislation backed by two Illinois Democrats in Congress calls for establishing a user fee on e-cigarette manufacturers and importers and using the money to combat teen vaping.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg and Republican Rep. Peter King of New York introduced the proposal Friday in Chicago.

The trio previously created a bipartisan Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic, and Krishnamoorthi has called for a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.

The new PREVENT Act, for Providing Resources to End the Vaping Epidemic Now for Teenagers, would create a quarterly user fee on manufacturers and importers of e-cigarettes, similar to the fee assessed on traditional cigarettes. The legislation would direct $2 million of the revenue to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to develop a prevention program aimed at decreasing the use of e-cigarettes on school grounds.

"Starting in the 1970s and continuing to today, education and prevention programs proved essential in decreasing youth cigarette use," Krishnamoorthi said. "However, today we are faced with a new public health epidemic: youth vaping."

E-cigarette use rose by 218% among middle schoolers and by 135% among high school students between 2017 and 2019, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. More than 5 million youth use e-cigarettes, which has been declared an epidemic by the surgeon general, FDA, CDC and Department of Health and Human Services.

Durbin said the bill builds on previous tobacco prevention strategies "helping fund preventive efforts that steer kids away from vaping and helping those already struggling with nicotine addiction."

"If we don't take this seriously, we risk the health of an entire generation of American kids," he said.

The FDA now collects annual and quarterly user fees from manufacturers and importers of cigarettes, snuff, chewing tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, cigar and pipe tobacco. Those fees will generate $712 million in fiscal 2020.

The PREVENT Act would require training school employees to identify and prevent youth vaping and provide resources to parents and school personnel. It calls for social media and marketing campaigns about the health risks of e-cigarette use by students.

The bill also calls for:

• Resources for students on how to communicate with their peers on the dangers of e-cigarette use.

• Partnering with school counselors to assist with cessation tools.

• Resources to help treat youth nicotine addiction. State and local health agencies and nonprofits could apply for CDC grants for prevention programs at middle and high schools.

The legislation is endorsed by a number of anti-tobacco, anti-drug and health care advocacy groups and medical professional organizations.

  Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat is backing new legislation that would impose a fee on e-cigarette manufacturers and importers. Joe Lewnard/
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