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Outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb Led The Charge, At Schumer’s Urging, To Limit E-Cigs; As E-Cig Use Surges & Flavors Explode, Departure Could Create Immediate Vacuum & Imperil Senator’s Fight

Schumer Will Also Demand New Nominee For FDA Pledge To Continue Gottlieb’s Work On E-Cigs Before Confirmed

Schumer: Critical E-Cig Regulations Could Go Up In Smoke Unless FDA Takes Immediate Action  

Just days after U.S. Food and Drug (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced he will be resigning from his post at the end of March, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is urging him to ensure a ban on kid-friendly e-cig flavors like candies, juices, fruits, cookies and more. Schumer wants Gottlieb to ensure the ban before he leaves and also announced that he will demand a new nominee for the post pledge to continue Gottlieb’s unfinished business on e-cigs before they are confirmed.

“With the resignation of Scott Gottlieb, critical e-cig regulations, like a crackdown and ban on kid-friendly flavors could go up in smoke unless the Commissioner takes immediate action before leaving,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Commissioner Gottlieb was bucking the trend of a lobbyist-friendly administration, and at my personal urging, led the charge to rein in e-cigarettes and the lengths they go to hook kids. This work must continue in his absence.”

Citing new data that shows e-cig use among youth is surging, Schumer detailed his asks of Gottlieb before he leaves in March. Specifically, Schumer wants Gottlieb to immediately:

1)      Finalize the ban of flavored e-cigarette products in convenience stores, where a majority of New York City and Long Island-area kids acquire their e-cigs and flavor pods.

2)      Once-and-for-all deem e-cigarettes as official tobacco products, which has been delayed for years. The delay means that e-cig flavors have been able to stay on the market for years without a comprehensive review of their public health implications.

Schumer also announced that he will ask the next FDA Commissioner nominee to publicly pledge to continue Gottlieb’s work on e-cigs before they are confirmed.

Schumer further detailed that the current law on the books that the FDA should use to rein in e-cigs and curtail marketing to kids begins with the Tobacco Control Act that Schumer pushed and passed in 2009. That law provides the FDA with authority over tobacco-like products such as e-cigs. However, the FDA has yet to use its authority to fully regulate e-cigarettes. Schumer, however, says the incremental steps taken during Gottlieb’s tenure—though critical and appreciated—have been a crawl when compared to the e-cig adoption craze among kids and more rapid action must be taken. 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. 

The Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA authority to treat e-cigarettes like other tobacco products for the sake of regulation and approval, requiring e-cigarettes to go through a rigorous public health and youth safety examination before they are allowed on the market. However, in 2017 the FDA announced they would delay new regulation of those products until 2021. While Gottlieb in November 2018 said he was open to revisiting the delay, Schumer is urging Gottlieb to formally and finally make the change before he leaves his post.

Gottlieb also said in November 2018 that the FDA intends to limit the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes to age-restricted retail settings and websites with “heightened” age verification practices and combat the marketing of e-cigarettes to kids. Specifically, this would ban convenience stores, which are not age restricted, from selling e-cigarette products. However, since Gottlieb’s announcement, he has not formally imposed the ban, and Schumer said that it is vital that Gottlieb do so immediately.

One of the e-cig brands most popular amongst youth 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. Schumer said that it is a misnomer that “Juul” is much safer than conventional smoking, highlighting that one “pod” contains the amount of nicotine equal to an entire pack of conventional cigarettes. Despite the known danger and popularity among teens, e-cigarettes continue to be sold on the market virtually unregulated.

In new reports, the CDC contends that youth tobacco use has reached its highest level in years due to an increase in e-cigarette popularity, which has reversed progress on the use of products that contain nicotine. While the overall proportion of high school students using tobacco products fell in recent years, there has been an increase in reported e-cigarette use, which doubled from 11.7 percent to 20.8 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the CDC. Last year, the rate of overall tobacco use jumped from 19.6 percent to 27.1 percent, and increase of 7.5 percent.

Schumer explained that e-cigarettes are supposed to be a safer alternative to regular cigarettes for adult smokers, but that is only the case if the user switches completely. CDC data shows that rather than switching from one product to another, people are becoming dual users, smoking regular cigarettes and using liquid nicotine products. The number of dual users is on the rise among young people, and CDC official, Brian A. King has said, “E-cigarettes could be playing a role in the patterns of use we’re seeing among kids in terms of cigarette smoking…It is possible that we are reinforcing and perpetuating dependency.”   

The Food and Drug Administration has echoed similar concerns as the CDC, that youth e-cigarette use will lead to regular cigarette use because children are being exposed to nicotine through e-cig use. Additionally, reports show that e-cigarette users are using them more frequently, 27.7 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes 20 or more days a month. 

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 number 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 fully extends its regulatory authority to e-cigarettes, it will specifically acknowledge 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.