Shaheen, Group of Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Dangerous E-Cigarette Tampering

September 25, 2019

**New legislation would require the FDA to create design standards for vaping devices—like JUUL—to prevent consumers from modifying or adding substances** 

(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced new bipartisan legislation with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that would set safety standards in the design of e-cigarette and vaping devices.

The Senators’ legislation—the E-Cigarette Device Standards Act of 2019—follows a spate of hundreds of illnesses and eight deaths linked to vaping across the United States. In some of the most serious cases, victims reportedly may have fallen ill because of adulterated THC oil that they were able to insert into vaping devices.

The E-Cigarette Device Standards Act of 2019 would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish standards regarding the design of e-cigarettes and vaping devices that, at a minimum, prevent consumers from modifying or adding any substances to electronic nicotine delivery systems in a way that is not intended by the manufacturer. Under the bill, the Secretary of Health and Human services will issue proposed regulations to carry out the standards within 180 days after the enactment of the bill, and issue final regulations no later than one year after the date of enactment.

The bill comes as youth e-cigarette addiction is rapidly growing in the United States, and young Americans have disproportionately been impacted by the impact of vaping-related lung illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16 percent of the known cases involve patients under 18 years old, and more than half involve patients under 25 years old.

Preliminary data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) show that five million children—including one in four high school students—are now vaping. This is a 135 percent increase over the past two years.

Cartridge- or pod-based e-cigarette products, such as JUUL, are especially popular among children in part because of their sleek design and appeal. JUUL’s cartridge-and pod-based products currently have more than a 70 percent share of e-cigarette market in the United States.

Given the continued surge in children using e-cigarettes and the ongoing outbreak of severe pulmonary disease—which has affected 530 Americans, including individuals in their low teens—there is now compelling evidence that the FDA should issue standards and consider device design through a pre-market review process.

“The vaping crisis is a developing public health emergency. As we continue to see people get sick, and in some cases die, it’s imperative that Congress take action by implementing federal standards and demanding accountability from e-cigarette companies to help keep Americans safe,” said Shaheen. “The Food and Drug Administration has a role to play here to ensure that vaping companies cannot continue to sell e-cigarette products that can be refilled with THC or other harmful substances that are making e-cigarette use even more dangerous, and even deadly. This bipartisan legislation would empower the agency with the authority to do just that. With the vaping crisis worsening—and American middle and high schoolers being among the most vulnerable—Congress cannot afford to wait. It’s time to act.”

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, education, law enforcement and health officials across the state about the ongoing public health concern. 

Earlier this month, the Trump administration answered the call of Senator Shaheen and several of her Senate colleagues in announcing a forthcoming ban on flavored e-cigarettes. This announcement followed a letter that Senators Shaheen and colleagues sent earlier in the day and two previous letters that Senator Shaheen and colleagues sent to the administration over the previous seven months. Last week, Shaheen hosted a discussion with students, administrators and local prevention groups at Nashua High School South to discuss tackling the vaping crisis, and particularly, concerns over how the crisis targets and is impacting middle and high schoolers. According to the CDC, 27.5 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019.

The full bill text of the E-Cigarette Device Standards Act of 2019 can be found here.