Krishnamoorthi calls for immediate ban on flavored e-cigarettes
In the wake of growing anxiety over vaping-related deaths, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi on Tuesday urged an immediate ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and called for a massive public information campaign to educate youths and families about its dangers.
The Schaumburg Democrat's call comes after the weekend vaping-related death of a 40-year-old California man. Six other people from California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Oregon also succumbed to vaping-related illnesses in recent months, authorities have reported.
The gravity of the situation prompted President Donald Trump to announce last week that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be issuing guidelines for the use of flavored e-cigarettes. The agency also is proposing a new enforcement policy requiring e-cigarette manufacturers to take their products off the market pending FDA approval.
Krishnamoorthi called the move "a good first step" and urged a ban to include menthol and mint flavors that are most popular with children and teens.
"We need to stop selling flavored e-cigarettes," Krishnamoorthi said. "I'm also concerned about the high nicotine levels. There is more nicotine in one pod of a Juul e-cigarette than in one pack of a conventional cigarette."
He suggests a multipronged approach to combating the epidemic, including attacking "fraudulent" marketing of vaping products to young people, launching a public information campaign for students and parents, creating a strategy with schools and a long-term anti-vaping campaign incorporating celebrities.
"It's got to be a full-scale, all-hands-on-deck type response," Krishnamoorthi said. "We need to partner with state and local jurisdictions to do so. I'm very heartened that this is not, so far, a partisan issue. Vaping is ravaging all communities and all parents are very concerned."
In July, the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which Krishnamoorthi chairs, held a two-part hearing examining Juul Labs Inc.'s role in the youth vaping epidemic. It concluded Juul is violating FDA regulations by making claims that its product helps users stop smoking cigarettes and is safer than cigarettes.
The subcommittee issued a 53-page letter to the FDA on Sept. 5 urging action against Juul. Subsequently, the FDA warned Juul against marketing "unauthorized modified risk tobacco products" and outreach targeting youth.
Juul has said the company never has marketed to youth and does not want any non-nicotine users to try its products.
Meanwhile, e-cigarette use among youth is increasing at a staggering rate. In 2019, 27.5% of high schoolers used an e-cigarette within the previous month compared to 20.8% in 2018 and 11.7% in 2017, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
The CDC is investigating more than 450 cases of respiratory illnesses linked to vaping. The agency has urged people to stop using the devices while it determines the cause.
The House subcommittee will conduct an emergency hearing next Tuesday with CDC officials testifying about the mystery respiratory illnesses due to vaping, Krishnamoorthi said.
"We are going to hear from the CDC about what they know about these illnesses, how they were caused and what are the next steps," Krishnamoorthi said.
The hearing will begin at 1 p.m. and will be livestreamed on the subcommittee's website, oversight.house.gov.