Krishnamoorthi, Durbin launch caucus to end youth vaping
National lawmakers Thursday launched a bipartisan Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic, co-chaired by U.S. Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi and Peter King, a New York Republican, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.
Earlier this week, Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat, called for an immediate ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and a massive public information campaign to educate youths and families about its dangers.
His comments followed the vaping-related death of a 40-year-old California man over the weekend. An eighth death, of a man in his mid-40s in St. Louis, was reported Thursday, and six people from California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Oregon also died of vaping-related illnesses in recent months.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that 530 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in 38 states and one U.S. territory, up from 380 a week ago, The Associated Press reported. Canada reported its first case Wednesday, a high school student who was on life support and has since recovered.
Krishnamoorthi and more than 15 other members of Congress stood with addiction prevention advocates and people affected by vaping and e-cigarette at Thursday's news conference at the nation's Capitol.
"We are in the midst of a national public health crisis," Krishnamoorthi said. "Among high schoolers, e-cigarette use rose by 80 percent in 2018 alone. E-cigarettes are used by 28 percent of high schoolers and, astonishingly, 5 percent of middle schoolers. According to the CDC, nicotine harms youth brain development, reduces the attention span and in many cases, leads to future substance abuse."
More than 500 people have been diagnosed with vaping-related lung and respiratory illnesses in 38 states and one U.S. territory, health officials report. Two-thirds of the cases involved 18- to 34-year-olds, mostly men. The CDC and state health officials warn consumers against using e-cigarette products until a cause is determined.
President Donald Trump last week announced 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.
"The truth is that for years flavored e-cigarettes were used to hook kids and have played an instrumental role in getting a generation of youth addicted to vaping and nicotine," Krishnamoorthi said.
He cited a new American Heart Institute survey showing fruity flavors were the most likely factor to motivate young adults ages 18 to 24 to start vaping.
"The vaping industry is already trying to lobby to create an exclusion and exemption for mint and menthol in the Administration's pending flavor ban," Krishnamoorthi said. "Mint and menthol ... must be included in this ban. There is a reason why mint is in our children's toothpaste. It attracts kids."
Krishnamoorthi said e-cigarette companies like Juul Labs Inc., have directly targeted schoolchildren and illegally marketed their products to them against FDA regulations.
"This caucus will serve as the premiere forum for like-minded leaders to discuss and craft legislative solutions to prevent youth e-cigarette use, decrease addiction and save lives," he said.
Lawmakers are working on legislation aimed at taxing e-cigarettes, investing in youth prevention programs and strengthening the medical response to this crisis.
"We must ensure that no tobacco or e-cigarette manufacturers profit on the backs of our children," Krishnamoorthi said. "Our children are not for sale."
CDC officials will testify Tuesday about the vaping epidemic before the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which Krishnamoorthi chairs. The hearing begins at 9 a.m. and will be livestreamed on the Congressional Oversight Committee's YouTube page. It will examine the outbreak of lung illness associated with using e-cigarette products, the causes of the outbreak and the rise in youth use of e-cigarettes.