WITH NEW YORK STATE BAN ON KID-FRIENDLY E-CIG FLAVORS TOTALLY FROZEN, SCHUMER—STANDING WITH LONG ISLAND KIDS—PUSHES NEW PLAN THAT BANS FLAVORS AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL; LEGISLATION, WITH STRONG BACKERS, COULD PASS—BUT IT REQUIRES CONGRESS TO ACT
New York State Recently Enacted A Much-Needed Ban On Kid-Friendly E-Cig Flavors—But The Plan Is On Ice In The Courts; Parents, Teachers—And Now, Even The Kids—Want Change & An Awareness Campaign
More Than A Quarter Of NY High-Schoolers Use E-Cigs And They Admit: It’s The Flavors That Hook ‘Em; Schumer Cites More Than 100 New Yorkers Who Have Fallen Ill, 18 Deaths Across The U.S. & New Warnings As He Pushes Plan
Schumer: It’s Time To Vaporize Kid-Friendly E-Cig Flavors—At The National Level
While a New York State ban on flavored e-cigs sits on ice via the courts, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, standing with high school students at Long Island’s William A. Shine Great Neck South High School, will push a new plan that bans kid-friendly flavors outright and at the national level. Schumer, who has successfully pushed the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act on this public health epidemic, said that the legislation needed to take proficient aim at the problem is now ready. He said his two-pronged, non-partisan plan has strong backers and overall support from the public—like parents. He said it could pass Congress, but that the body must act.
“With the New York State ban concerning e-cig flavors on ice, it makes eminent good sense to turn the heat up on Congress and push through a national plan that hits at the heart of the initial addiction: kid-friendly flavors,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “The idea of smoking mangos, mints, cookies and candy flavors is not intended to court the average adult. Rather, those flavors are meant to trap kids and introduce them to nicotine in a way that slowly, but surely and tastefully, builds their addiction. Now, we are seeing the negative public health effects of this strategy emerge and that is why we have to act.”
According to a Sienna Poll released yesterday, 78% of New Yorkers think e-cig use and vaping is a serious problem and a large majority (61%) support a ban on flavors.
As part of Schumer’s plan, first, he unveiled the bipartisan Stopping Appealing Flavors in E-Cigarettes for Kids (SAFE Kids) Act, which would enact the ban on flavored e-cigarettes, preventing them from reaching the hands of children and teenagers. Second, Schumer is calling on the feds to launch a coordinated national strategy and awareness campaign on youth e-cigarette use—which students want. Schumer will say, taken together, the two measures would begin to alleviate the youth e-cigarette epidemic on Long Island and across New York State.
The CDC has reported 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 a concerning increase in reported e-cigarette use, which doubled from 11.7 percent to 20.8 percent between 2017 and 2018. This means that there were a staggering 1.5 million more youth e-cigarette users in 2018 than 2017. Last year, the rate of overall tobacco use among high school students jumped from 19.6 percent to 27.1 percent, an increase of 7.5 percent that is largely attributed to e-cigarette use.
According to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), at least 110 New Yorkers have been hospitalized due to vaporizer use in recent months, with several of those hospitalizations occurring in our area. Furthermore, the CDC has confirmed 18 deaths from e-cigarette use, spread across 15 states. To date, the agency has reported at least 1,080 cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use from 48 states and 1 U.S. territory. Schumer said that these statistics demonstrate a pressing need to address the e-cigarette epidemic with full force, using an all-hands-on-deck and all-of-the-above approach.
First, Schumer called on his colleagues in Congress to expediently pass the bipartisan SAFE Kids Act. The bipartisan legislation, which is cosponsored by Senator Schumer, was introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in the Senate and has a House companion. Specifically, the bill would ban flavored e-cigarette products that are typically targeted towards children, such as products that imitate candies, juices, fruits, cookies, and more. Schumer said that by advertising these types of flavors, companies are clearly directing their efforts toward ensnaring children and getting them hooked on their products, and that they must be stopped without further delay. The legislation contains a provision that would allow for the reintroduction of certain flavors back to the marketplace, but only if companies prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their products: help adults stop smoking traditional cigarettes, do not increase the rates of youth tobacco and nicotine use, and do not increase the likelihood of a user falling ill.
Second, Schumer urged HHS, in tandem with the FDA, CDC, and OSG, to implement a long-term strategy to educate the groundbreaking number of youth e-cigarette users and prevent additional youth from starting use of e-cigarettes. Schumer explained that while he appreciates recent actions taken by these agencies to curb e-cigarette use, including the Surgeon General’s advisory issued in December 2018 and the FDA’s recent move to clear the market of all unauthorized, non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes, due to the unprecedented scale of the youth e-cigarette epidemic, more must be done. Schumer also highlighted the FDA’s “Real Cost Campaign” as an important resource that cannot solve this crisis alone, as almost 80% of middle and high school students do not believe that e-cigarette use is harmful to their health and well-being.
Schumer said that considering this, the need for a coordinated national strategy and awareness campaign is clear as day. Schumer said that much like e-cigarette manufacturers targeted children at school and summer camps with enticing marketing tactics and flavored products, there should be a concerted effort on behalf of public health agencies to counter these messages with programmatic interventions and widespread dissemination of educational resources. Schumer said that it is of the utmost importance to execute such a strategy and campaign in a timely manner to meet the needs of Mohawk Valley youth who are already addicted to e-cigarettes, as well as prevent others from starting to use the products in the first place.
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 transforms it into a vapor that users then inhale and exhale. Unlike conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, a key difference that has led some to deem e-cigarettes safer to smoke. Yet, not all health risks are known, and some studies have highlighted the dangers of e-cigarettes. For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that some higher voltage e-cigarettes can contain cancer-causing formaldehyde at levels up to fifteen times more than regular cigarettes. In addition, e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a chemical that has been shown to have negative health impacts on adolescent brain development.
Earlier this year, Schumer was successful in a push to get the outgoing FDA Commissioner to take action on kid-friendly flavors domestically. Schumer has also stood with New York teens who admitted their addiction to e-cigarettes and their kid-friendly flavors.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to HHS appears below.
Dear Secretary Azar:
I write to strongly urge you to develop and implement an interagency, national strategy to combat the alarming epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. As the leader of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), you oversee the core agencies responsible for responding to this public health crisis, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG). While I am pleased by the recent actions taken by these agencies, it is imperative that the administration complement these actions with a long-term strategy to educate the groundbreaking number of youth e-cigarette users and prevent additional youth from initiating use.
In the midst of the current outbreak of severe respiratory illness associated with e-cigarettes, of which 16 percent of patients are under 18 years old, it is crucial that we do not lose sight of the sustained trend of youth use of these products. Nearly one in four high school students currently use e-cigarettes, and there were 1.5 million more current youth e-cigarette users in 2018 than 2017, representing a staggering 78 percent increase. The disproportionate use of e-cigarettes among youth is particularly alarming due to the harmful effects of nicotine on the developing brain. We cannot continue to subject our youth to these products and a potential lifetime of nicotine addiction, when the products themselves should not have been allowed on the market prior to a comprehensive review of their impact on public health.
I support recent actions the FDA, CDC, and OSG have taken steps to address the e-cigarette youth epidemic, such as the Surgeon General’s advisory released in December 2018 and the FDA’s move to clear the market of all unauthorized, non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes. In coordination with the CDC’s epidemiological resources and capacity, I believe the agencies are well-equipped to handle this epidemic. However, due to the unprecedented scale of the youth e-cigarette epidemic, more must be done. The FDA’s “The Real Cost Campaign”, while an important educational tool, will not ameliorate this crisis alone. In fact, almost 80 percent of middle and high school students still do not perceive e-cigarette use as harmful to their health. This must change if we are to turn the tide on the epidemic.
The need for a national strategy and awareness campaign on youth e-cigarette use is clear. Much like e-cigarette manufacturers targeted children at school and summer camps with enticing marketing tactics, there should be a concerted effort on behalf of our public health agencies to counter these messages with programmatic interventions and resource dissemination. It is imperative that these initiatives are carried out in a timely manner in order to meet the needs of our youth who are already using and addicted to e-cigarettes, as well as prevent others from engaging with these products in the first place. Communities and families across the country are depending on swift action to keep their children safe not only in the short-term, but for years to come.
We must continue to prioritize the health of our nation’s youth. I stand ready to work with you, and welcome any input on ways in which Congress can assist in these efforts. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.
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