WASHINGTON D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today issued the following statement as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The survey shows that tobacco use among young people is decreasing, while e-cigarette use among high school students has tripled between 2011 and 2013.
“While it is encouraging to see that tobacco use is declining amongst America’s youth, I am very troubled by the fact that the use of e-cigarettes has nearly tripled over the past two years,” said Harkin. “Keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of kids must be a top priority. Marketing these tobacco products to young people must be stopped in order to prevent creating a new generation of nicotine addicts. The Food and Drug Administration must act to regulate e-cigarettes and ensure an end to the nefarious practices of companies that market these products to youth.”
According to the survey, In 2013, the cigarette smoking rate among high school students was 12.7 percent, down from 15.8 percent in 2011. Additionally the study found that since 2000, cigarette smoking among high school students has been cut by more than half (from 28 to 12.7 percent), while middle school smoking has fallen by 74 percent (from 11 to 2.9 percent). In 2013, 4.5 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. That is triple the 1.5 percent who reported doing so in 2011 and up from 2.8 percent in 2012.
As a longtime member and now as Chairman of the HELP Committee, Harkin has been a leader in Congress in the effort to protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco use and in calling for stronger regulation of tobacco products. In 1998, he introduced the first comprehensive, bipartisan bill to give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, a precursor to the Harkin-sponsored Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act which finally gave FDA this authority. In April 2014, Harkin and ten other Democratic lawmakers released an investigative report that revealed a dramatic increase in the marketing of e-cigarettes, with manufacturers dedicating extensive resources to social media, sponsorship of youth-oriented events, and television and radio advertisements that reach substantial youth audiences. More recently in August 2014, Harkin joined 13 members of Congress to send a letter to the FDA urging the agency to take immediate action to protect young people from predatory e-cigarette marketing tactics.