December 06, 2018

Wyden, Merkley Urge FDA to Go Further In Combatting Youth Tobacco Use

Oregon senators say recent study showing spike in youth e-cigarette use requires swift action

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act quickly to implement plans to ban flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes.

In a letter sent this week by Wyden, Merkley and 19 other senators to FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the lawmakers also ask Gottlieb to follow the FDA’s recent efforts to address rising youth e-cigarette use with additional steps. The lawmakers call for ending the marketing of all tobacco products to youth and removing from market all flavored tobacco products that have not undergone a thorough FDA review that shows they benefit public health.

“It is well past time to end the marketing of products that so clearly impact the health of our youth, and we urge the agency to act quickly to make good on its commitment to take them off the market once and for all,” the senators wrote. “It is clear flavored tobacco products are leading to a new generation of youth becoming addicted to nicotine, and we have repeatedly urged the FDA to act swiftly and strongly to end the scourge of youth tobacco use.

"While the agency’s planned actions on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars would generate substantial public health improvements, we remain concerned the new steps do not go far enough, especially with regard to e-cigarettes,” they wrote. “We therefore urge FDA to move quickly to not only ban flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes, but also to end the marketing of all tobacco products to youth and remove all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from the market until or unless they have undergone a thorough FDA review that shows they are of benefit to the public health.”

The letter comes after the FDA’s recent announcement of new steps to fight rising youth tobacco use and new data showing the urgency of the problem. According to data from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), e-cigarette use increased sharply among high school students in recent years, jumping from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 20.8 percent in 2018. As of 2018, one-in-five high school students and one-in-20 middle school students use e-cigarettes.

The letter was also signed by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Udall (NM), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

The text of the letter is available here.