Amid Delay, Shaheen & Hassan Urge Trump Administration to Prioritize Children’s Health and Keep Promise to Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes

October 30, 2019

E-cigarette use among teens continues to grow, largely fueled by flavored products

Senators: “[The Trump Administration] must not bow to industry or political pressure at the expense of public health” 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter yesterday with a group of Senators to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar, denouncing his delay in addressing the growing public health crisis of youth tobacco use. The Senators urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finalize its promised compliance policy and clear the market of unauthorized, flavored e-cigarette products, including mint and menthol flavors. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the lead Democrat of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), led the letter to Secretary Azar.

Last month, the Trump administration announced that it would move to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which came in response to calls from Senators Shaheen, Hassan and several of their Senate colleagues to do so. The announcement followed a letter that the Senators and their colleagues sent earlier in the day, and two previous letters that Senator Shaheen and colleagues sent to the administration over the previous seven months.

In the past year, e-cigarette use has increased by more than 75 percent among high school students, largely fueled by the appeal of products with flavors like candy, fruit, mint and menthol. Nearly two-thirds of youth that use e-cigarettes use mint and menthol products. Though the Trump administration has promised to address the epidemic, the FDA has yet to take any action and is even reportedly considering exempting mint and menthol flavors, despite its promise to include them in the compliance policy. As delays persist and President Trump continues to play politics with public health, e-cigarette use among children continues to increase with no signs of stopping.

“Because of the ever-increasing epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that has been fueled by flavors that include mint and menthol, we implore the Administration to finalize a compliance policy removing all unauthorized, non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes from the market immediately,” wrote the Senators. “It must not bow to industry or political pressure at the expense of the public health.”

The letter was also signed by Senators Schumer (D-NY), Whitehouse (D-RI), Leahy (D-VT), Brown (D-OH), Reed (D-RI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Markey (D-MA), Warren (D-MA), Durbin (D-IL), Cardin (D-MD), Murphy (D-CT), Harris (D-CA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Duckworth (D-IL), King (I-ME), Merkley (D-OR), Casey (D-PA), Kaine (D-VA), Van Hollen (D-MD), Booker (D-NJ), Wyden (D-OR), Menendez (D-NJ) and Hirono (D-HI).

Full text of the letter can be found here.

Senator Shaheen has prioritized efforts in the Senate to tackle the youth vaping crisis. She’s leading legislation – the E-Cigarette Youth Protection Act – which would require e-cigarette companies to pay fees to the FDA to help fund federal prevention efforts and ensure that the agency has the resources needed to enforce a future ban on flavored e-cigarettes. She’s also held multiple meetings with students, educators, law enforcement and health officials across the state about the ongoing public health concern. Shaheen introduced the No Tax Subsidies for E-Cigarette and Tobacco Ads Act last month and helped introduce the E-Cigarette Device Standards Act of 2019, which would close a tax loophole that allows manufacturers to claim federal tax deductions for the cost of advertising e-cigarettes and tobacco products and set safety standards in the design of e-cigarette and vaping devices.