Senator Murray and 16 Democrats wrote to the Food and Drug Administration urging “proactive and expedient action” to protect kids from tobacco products
Letter comes ahead of ten year anniversary of the landmark Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found one in four high school students using e-cigarettes as of 2018
Senators: “This anniversary offers an important reminder of the serious threat posed to public health by tobacco and the need for strong action to make sure we protect kids from a dangerous new generation of tobacco products.”
Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, led 16 of her Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to Dr. Norman E. Sharpless, Acting Commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in recognition of the ten year anniversary of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. In the letter the Senators urged the FDA to act quickly and do more to protect kids from dangerous tobacco products, and cited alarming statics demonstrating the sharp uptick of youth tobacco use in recent years.
“We write to recognize the 10-year anniversary of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and to urge proactive and expedient action to protect kids from dangerous tobacco products. This anniversary offers an important reminder of the serious threat posed to public health by tobacco and the need for strong action to make sure we protect kids from a dangerous new generation of tobacco products,” wrote the Senators.
The letter was also signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Full text of Senator Murray’s letter below, and PDF available HERE:
June 20, 2019
Norman E. Sharpless, MD
Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002
Dear Acting Commissioner Sharpless:
We write to recognize the 10-year anniversary of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and to urge proactive and expedient action to protect kids from dangerous tobacco products. This anniversary offers an important reminder of the serious threat posed to public health by tobacco and the need for strong action to make sure we protect kids from a dangerous new generation of tobacco products.
The landmark Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was passed on June 22, 2009 with the goals of reducing youth smoking rates and lessening the harm caused by tobacco products. Our commitment to reducing smoking rates and the disastrous public health impacts of such use led Congress to provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with new authority to regulate the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of all tobacco products. Congress believed in 2009, as we do today, that the federal government has a critical role in protecting the public health from this known, deadly, and widespread threat. The FDA can and must better use the authority granted to the agency under this important law.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of premature death in the United States. In recent years, we have seen particularly alarming trends in youth tobacco use, stemming from pervasive and aggressive marketing of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to kids. More than one in four high school students report use of tobacco products. Especially concerning is the uptick in e-cigarette consumption: from 2017 to 2018 alone, the amount of e-cigarette use reported in the past 30 days among high school students increased from 11.7 percent to 20.8 percent. Data shows that these young smokers prefer flavored products: of high school students who reported current tobacco use, 65 percent used a flavored tobacco product. Among high school e-cigarette users, more than half used a mint or menthol product.
Nearly nine out of ten adults who smoke cigarettes first tried smoking before the age of 18, indicating adolescence is a critical period to prevent youth from nicotine addiction and tobacco-caused disease. Curbing the availability of flavored products will be imperative in any prevention effort.
Changes in public policy, research, education, and treatment have saved the lives of millions of people in the last 30 years who may otherwise have died from tobacco-related causes, but the current trends in youth tobacco use threaten to reverse these decades of progress.
Unfortunately, despite the delegation of authority in 2009 for FDA to oversee tobacco products, the agency has not acted with the speed and proactivity necessary to prevent and respond to the public health crisis of rising youth tobacco use. In recent years, FDA has delayed asserting jurisdiction over e-cigarettes and then delayed enforcing the required public health reviews of these products. On the 10-year anniversary of this landmark law, we again call on FDA to protect youth from nicotine addiction and prevent tobacco-caused disease by using the full authority that Congress has given it to oversee tobacco products.
In order to better understand the agency’s direction and plans, we request your response to the following questions by no later than July 22, 2019:
We remain committed to fulfilling the promise of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and hope you will work with us to reduce tobacco use and the devastating harm these products cause. If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Andi Lipstein Fristedt with the HELP Committee Staff at (202) 224-7675.
 https://www.fda.gov/media/86497/download; https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6806e1.htm?s_cid=mm6806e1_w