11.13.19

Senator Murray Presses Trump Administration On Lackluster E-Cigarette Efforts Amid Outbreak of Vaping-Related Illness, Rising Youth Tobacco Use

Murray: “President Trump and his team have shown little interest in taking on the tobacco industry behind this epidemic and fighting for our children.”

 

Since the Trump administration delayed oversight of e-cigarettes in 2017, youth e-cigarette use has doubled among high school students, tripled among middle schools students

 

Outbreak of vaping-related lung illness has impacted over 2,000 people

 

Over two months after announcing an upcoming ban on flavored e-cigarettes, reports suggest the Trump Administration is backing down from its promise with carve-outs for menthol products, vape shops

 

Last week a Trump administration health policy advisor said FDA regulation of tobacco is “a huge waste of time”

 

Murray: “While communities across the country are treating nicotine addiction among kids like a public health crisis, e-cigarette companies have been treating it like a business plan.”

 

***Watch Senator Murray’s opening statement HERE***

 

Washington D.C.—Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, blasted the Trump administration over its lackluster efforts to address rising youth e-cigarette use at a committee hearing with experts from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In her remarks, Senator Murray emphasized the urgency of responding to the ongoing outbreak of vaping-related lung illness that has impacted over 2,000 people, and rising rates of youth e-cigarette use.

 

Senator Murray criticized the Trump administration for its decision in 2017 to delay oversight of existing e-cigarettes until August 2022, and over reports that it was planning to abandon its recent promise to ban all flavored e-cigarettes that have not undergone FDA review— specifically, by carving out menthol flavors and oversight of vaping shops. Senator Murray also criticized e-cigarette companies for their efforts to target children. New data shows since the Trump administration decided to delay oversight of e-cigarettes, youth tobacco use has doubled among high school students and more than tripled among middle school students.

 

Key excerpts of the Senator’s remarks below.

 

“For years, popular e-cigarette brands, like Juul—the brand we know most kids use—have appealed to kids through flavors like mint, menthol, and crème brûlée and youth-savvy advertising, like campaigns with influencer personalities, among other tactics. While communities across the country are treating nicotine addiction among kids like a public health crisis, e-cigarette companies have been treating it like a business plan.  In fact, Juul reportedly not only knew how addictive and appealing its product would be for kids, but used the addictiveness to market the product to retailers. One ‘Juul pod’ can have as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes—and many kids don’t even realize it.”

 

“This crisis is spiraling out of control. It requires swift, bold action, but for years, President Trump and his team have shown little interest in taking on the tobacco industry behind this epidemic and fighting for our children. His advisor Kellyanne Conway recently—and wrongly—said the FDA has no jurisdiction over vaping and vape shops. And another of President Trump’s leading voices on health care policy said he doesn’t believe the FDA should even be regulating tobacco products and that the FDA’s regulation of tobacco is—believe it or not—a ‘huge waste of time.’ That’s not merely alarming, it’s dead wrong.”

 

“In the years since the Trump Administration decided to hit the ‘snooze button’ on making sure e-cigarettes meet even the most basic standards youth tobacco use has skyrocketed, driven by e-cigarette use—which has more than doubled among high school students since 2017, and more than tripled among middle school students. And while the Trump Administration’s decision to delay oversight of products already on the market has allowed this crisis to grow, its lackluster enforcement against new products coming to market illegally, has allowed it to fester, creating a ‘wild west’ of vape products that are unregulated, and that can be incredibly dangerous in all sorts of ways—something the current epidemic of vaping-related illness has made all too clear.”

 

“Unfortunately, despite President Trump’s recent promise to clear the market of non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes nationally—a promise that, for the first time, seemed to indicate this Administration was taking the youth vaping epidemic seriously—reporting suggests he may be walking away from that proposal altogether, or planning to bow to tobacco industry pressure with a watered-down policy that could carve out vape shops, and leave menthol—a huge category of incredibly popular e-cigarette flavors—unaddressed. That would be a massive loophole, and absolutely unacceptable…. We need swift, bold action, not long delays and half-steps.”

 

“Back in Washington state, the La Conner school district recently filed a lawsuit against Juul for its role in the epidemic of youth tobacco use. Meanwhile, students at Jackson High School are encouraging their peers to take a pledge against vaping. And earlier this year, Madison, a student from Ridgefield High School, testified in front of the state legislature about her own experience with e-cigarette addiction, and encouraged lawmakers to take action. Leaders and advocates across the country are doing everything they can to respond to this crisis, and they deserve to know that we’re doing everything we can too.”

 

Full text of the Senator’s remarks below and video HERE.

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you to our witnesses for joining us today.

 

“Right now, families across the country are worried about the epidemic of lung injuries associated with e-cigarettes or vaping products that has struck over 2,000 people—including fourteen in Washington state and claimed 39 lives. My heart goes out to the victims and their families.

 

“I know all of my colleagues agree this is an urgent issue, and we’re all very interested in what our witnesses today have to tell us about this crisis, and what steps we can take to stop it in its tracks and prevent similar outbreaks in the future.

 

“And beyond this new illness, families across the country are also deeply concerned about the continuing uptick in youth e-cigarette use.

 

“The latest data show more than one in four high school students, and one in ten middle school students are using e-cigarettes. This alarming increase, fueled by companies’ efforts to appeal to kids threatens decades of work, and puts a generation of children at risk of nicotine addiction.

 

“For years, popular e-cigarette brands, like Juul—the brand we know most kids use—have appealed to kids through flavors like mint, menthol, and crème brûlée and youth-savvy advertising, like campaigns with influencer personalities, among other tactics.

 

“While communities across the country are treating nicotine addiction among kids like a public health crisis, e-cigarette companies have been treating it like a business plan.

 

“In fact, Juul reportedly not only knew how addictive and appealing its product would be for kids, but used the addictiveness to market the product to retailers.

 

“One ‘Juul pod’ can have as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes—and many kids don’t even realize it.

 

“This crisis is spiraling out of control. It requires swift, bold action.

 

“But for years, President Trump and his team have shown little interest in taking on the tobacco industry behind this epidemic and fighting for our children.

 

“His advisor Kellyanne Conway recently—and wrongly—said the FDA has no jurisdiction over vaping and vape shops. And another of President Trump’s leading voices on health care policy said he doesn’t believe the FDA should even be regulating tobacco products and that the FDA’s regulation of tobacco is—believe it or not—a ‘huge waste of time.’

 

“That’s not merely alarming, it’s dead wrong.

 

“But it’s not just the Trump Administration’s words that should make families skeptical it is putting our children’s best interests ahead of tobacco companies’ profits. It’s the Administration’s actions too.

 

“In 2017, the Trump Administration delayed FDA oversight of existing e-cigarette products by four years.  The decision, which former FDA Commissioner Gottlieb has since admitted was a mistake and a court has since ruled was unlawful, was a victory for companies like Juul, which were able to continue targeting our nation’s youth and selling flavored products that appealed to kids.

 

“In the years since the Trump Administration decided to hit the ‘snooze button’ on making sure e-cigarettes meet even the most basic standards youth tobacco use has skyrocketed, driven by e-cigarette use—which has more than doubled among high school students since 2017, and more than tripled among middle school students.

 

“And while the Trump Administration’s decision to delay oversight of products already on the market has allowed this crisis to grow, its lackluster enforcement against new products coming to market illegally, has allowed it to fester, creating a ‘wild west’ of vape products that are unregulated, and that can be incredibly dangerous in all sorts of ways—something the current epidemic of vaping-related illness has made all too clear.

 

“Between the crisis of rising youth tobacco use, and the alarming outbreak of vaping related illness, families are counting on us to act quickly and keep them safe.


“Washington is one of several states that has already taken action by passing an emergency rule to ban flavored e-cigarettes, and raising the purchasing age for tobacco to 21.

 

“This Committee has also advanced legislation to raise the purchasing age to 21 nationally—but while we push for that step, there is still much more that needs to be done, including immediately clearing the market of all flavored e-cigarettes that have not undergone FDA review.

 

“Unfortunately, despite President Trump’s recent promise to clear the market of non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes nationally—a promise that, for the first time, seemed to indicate this Administration was taking the youth vaping epidemic seriously—reporting suggests he may be walking away from that proposal altogether, or planning to bow to tobacco industry pressure with a watered-down policy that could carve out vape shops, and leave menthol—a huge category of incredibly popular e-cigarette flavors—unaddressed.

 

“That would be a massive loophole, and absolutely unacceptable.

 

“In fact, new data released just last week showed us that youth use of mint and menthol e-cigarettes dramatically increased over the last year alone.

 

“We need swift, bold action, not long delays and half-steps.

 

“And that doesn’t just go for e-cigarettes, but also for cigars, including kid-appealing flavored cigars, cigarettes, including menthol cigarettes, and other tobacco products.

 

“We need to continue investing in public health programs and preventive measures through CDC. And we need real progress on reducing the levels of nicotine in cigarettes—another policy the Trump Administration promised but that I am going to keep pushing for. 

 

“And I’m absolutely going to be pushing President Trump’s new nominee to lead the FDA about his plans to fight tobacco use as well.

 

“Because our communities—our kids—cannot wait for the Trump Administration to get its act together.

“Back in Washington state, the La Conner school district recently filed a lawsuit against Juul for its role in the epidemic of youth tobacco use.

 

“Meanwhile, students at Jackson High School are encouraging their peers to take a pledge against vaping.

 

“And earlier this year, Madison, a student from Ridgefield High School, testified in front of the state legislature about her own experience with e-cigarette addiction, and encouraged lawmakers to take action.


“Leaders and advocates across the country are doing everything they can to respond to this crisis, and they deserve to know that we’re doing everything we can too.

 

“That’s why I’m going to keep pushing for action on e-cigarettes and vaping—and I know there are members on both sides of the aisle that want us to do more on this too.

“So I hope we can take what we learn from this hearing and use it to continue working together, in a bipartisan way, on common sense steps to keep our kids, and our communities, safe.

 

“Thank you.”

 

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