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Just-Out Warning Letter From Coalition Of Nation’s Most Credible Health Orgs, Including American Academy Of Pediatrics, Warns E-Cig Use & Popularity Of Devices Like ‘Juul’ Continues To Advance; With Millions Of Kids Now Addicted, Senator Says FDA Has The Power To Move Faster—And Should—Thanks To Tobacco Control Law Now On Books

FDA Actions Are Moving Slow While E-Cig Usage Amongst Teenagers Is On Fire

Schumer: If Addicted NY Kids Will Stand With Me, This Is An Epidemic That Demands Swifter Action By Feds

Standing alongside New York kids who say they have become addicted to their e-cig, “Juul,” and on the heels of a just-out warning letter from the nation’s most respected health coalitions that cites the continued spread of e-cigarette use among middle and high school students, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is demanding the feds, particularly the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), use a law on the books to immediately reign in and ban the kid-friendly e-cig flavors, he and others say, are helping to fuel a fire of e-cig addiction among New York adolescents.

The new and unprecedented e-cig warning letter to U.S. FDA Administrator Scott Gottlieb was signed last month by a broad coalition that includes the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the American Lung Association among others.

“The craze among kids for e-cig flavors that resemble whipped cream, candy and cookies is not only a bad trend, but it is a recipe for disaster that is fueling an outright addiction that appears to be getting worse, not better,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “The just-out warning letter from America’s top doctors and health groups detailing how this addiction continues its creep into high schools and middle schools is no doubt nails on the chalkboard for teachers and parents alike. This e-cig nicotine laced liquid could have very serious implications on adolescent development and health. That is why it is high time to ramp up the pressure on and by the FDA so quicker action to rid the marketplace of kid-friendly e-cig flavors is taken. While the FDA has thankfully begun to move on this epidemic, those actions are slower moving compared to the wildfire spread of e-cig use among kids, and we need to catch up. New York kids are in a flavor trap and it’s becoming a real epidemic now.” 

Schumer said the current law on the books that the FDA should use to reign in e-cigs and curtail marketing to kids begins with the Tobacco Control Act that Schumer pushed and passed in 2009. That law now provides the FDA with authority over e-cigs. Schumer, however, says the current process—though critical and appreciated—has been a crawl when compared to the e-cig adoption craze among kids. The Senator says the FDA must move faster to beat back the e-cig addiction trend among the teenage age group by banning kid-friendly flavors and marketing attempts that make liquid and chemically-laced nicotine look like an innocent—and delicious—food product. 

One of the e-cig brands most popular amongst youth, and the one kids standing with Schumer will admit addiction to is “Juul.” Juul is just one variation of e-cig—though it is the amongst the market leaders in the youth demographic--with flavored liquid. The device, like its product counterparts, comes in a variety of flavors and can be easily concealed by kids in the classroom because it looks identical to a USB flash drive; it can even be charged in school or at home on a laptop. one “pod” of JUUL contains the amount of nicotine equal to an entire pack of conventional cigarettes.  Despite the known dangerous and popularity among teens, e-cigarettes continue to be sold on the market with limited regulation. Last July, the FDA decided to hold off on implementing an already finalized rule that would regulate e-cigarettes. Schumer today urged the FDA to move faster on recent actions to reign in the marketing of e-cigarettes with kid-friendly flavors.

According to the urgent action letter signed and sent to the FDA this past April, “The rapid growth in Juul use by high school students demonstrates that the FDA and Juul’s manufacturer must do more to prevent the marketing and sale of the product to kids and ensure it is marketed and sold responsibly, consistent with the company’s own stated mission of providing “an alternative to smoking” for adults.” And according to the New York State Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Advisory Board, more than one in five New York high school students used e-cigarettes in the last year and New York’s rate is higher than the national average. 

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that are designed to resemble traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain a mechanism inside the device that heats up liquid nicotine and turns it into a vapor that smokers then inhale and exhale. Unlike conventional cigarettes, however, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco. This key difference has led some to deem e-cigarettes safer to smoke. However, while not all risks are known, some studies have highlighted the dangers of e-cigarettes. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that some e-cigarettes with higher voltage levels can contain cancer-causing formaldehyde at levels up to fifteen times more than regular cigarettes.  In addition, e-cigarettes contain nicotine; the Surgeon General has found that nicotine has negative health impacts on adolescent brain development. According to the Surgeon General, the effects of nicotine exposure during youth and young adulthood can be long-lasting and can include lower impulse control and mood disorders. The nicotine in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can prime young brains for addiction to other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Moreover, according to the Surgeon General, youth who use a tobacco product, like e-cigarettes, are more likely to go on to use another tobacco product, like conventional cigarettes.

A 2016 study published in the Environmental Science and Technology found that e-cigarettes also contain two new types of carcinogens: propylene oxide and glycidol. The study also suggests that the age of the e-cigarette device and temperature play a role in the amount of chemicals produced.  For instance, the study tested three types of e-liquids in two different vaporizers. The devices with one heating coil instead of two released higher chemical levels; and the higher the temperature inside the coil, the higher the amount of chemicals produced.

According to a 2016 report conducted by the Surgeon General,  e-cigarettes are marketed by promoting flavors that appeal to youth—including candy, fruit flavorings, whipped cream, even juice—and that such marketing has resulted in increased use of tobacco products among children and teens. Schumer said that when the FDA extended its regulatory authority to e-cigarettes, it specifically acknowledged the harms posed to youth by flavored tobacco products. According to the CDC, more than 9 of every 10 young adult e-cigarette users said they use e-cigarettes flavored to taste like menthol, alcohol, candy, fruit, chocolate, or other sweets. More than 8 of every 10 youth ages 12-17 who use e-cigarettes said they use flavored e-cigarettes.

Schumer, today, said that a slow moving FDA process to fully regulate e-cigs and curtail kid-friendly flavors could allow flavored e-cigarettes to remain on the market until at least 2022.

Schumer’s new letter to FDA Commissioner Gottlieb appears below:

Dear Commissioner Gottlieb:

Since Congress granted the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, the FDA has taken a number of commendable steps to reduce the dangers and harms of smoking. This includes educating the public about the risks of smoking, identifying and prohibiting deceptive tobacco marketing, and more. While cigarette smoking among high school students is at a record low – only 8 percent as of 2016 – this accomplishment is at risk due to the rise of non-cigarette smoking products, particularly e-cigarettes and the JUUL vaping device.  E-cigarette use among middle and high school students more than tripled between 2011 and 2016, and e-cigarette companies are raking in record profits.

Each e-liquid cartridge, or JUUL Pod, contains roughly as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. While the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes remain unclear, public health professions have significant concerns about the immediate harmful effects of e-cigarettes on children’s developing brains and bodies.

Many of the flavors e-cigarette manufacturers make available are highly appealing to children, including crème brulee, mango, cool mint and fruit medley. While the makers of these products routinely assert that children are not intended to use them, I doubt that any reasonable person would claim that such flavors are not uniquely attractive to and targeted at children. As a leading child psychiatrist at NYU Medical Center said, “Who over 25 is looking for crème brulee as part of a smoking experience?”

I appreciate and applaud the May 1, 2018 announcement in which the FDA and FTC issued 13 warning letters to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers for selling e-liquids with advertising that made them appear similar to food products – such as candy, cookies or juice boxes – that are targeted at children. Some of the product flavors that received warning letters include Vape Heads Sour Smurf Sauce, V'Nilla Cookies & Milk, Golden Oreo, Whip’d Strawberry and Twirly Pop, which quite literally is shipped along with a Unicorn lollipop.

While this latest FDA action is a positive step in the right direction, more must be done. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 gives the FDA significant authority over a variety of tobacco products, as well as the authority to expand its jurisdiction to other products such as e-cigarettes. I strongly encourage the FDA to use the full extent of its authority and outright ban kid-friendly flavors in all e-cigarette devices.

I am confident and recognize that you share my concerns about the risks e-cigarettes present to children. The use of e-cigarettes among children is rising at a booming rate, and the FDA must act swiftly to stem the tide. It cannot to afford to wait or move too slowly in its response. I encourage you to use the FDA’s existing authority to fully ban kid-friendly e-cigarette flavors, and I look forward to continuing to work together to ensure greater safety for our country’s children.


U.S. Senator Charles Schumer