October 29, 2019

Wyden, Merkley Urge Trump Administration to Prioritize Children’s Health and Keep Promise to Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes

In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, senators slam delay and reported weakening of promised action on youth tobacco use epidemic

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today joined U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Senate Democrats to denounce the Trump administration’s delay in addressing the growing epidemic of youth tobacco use.

In a letter sent to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, the senators urged that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalize its promised compliance policy and clear the market of unauthorized, flavored e-cigarette products, including mint and menthol flavors.

“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,” the senators wrote. “It must not bow to industry or political pressure at the expense of the public health.”

In the past year, e-cigarette use has increased by more than 75 percent amongst high school students, largely fueled by the appeal of products with flavors like candy, fruit, mint and menthol. Nearly two-thirds of young people that use e-cigarettes use mint and menthol products. Though the Trump administration promised to address the epidemic, the FDA has yet to take any action and is reportedly considering exempting mint and menthol flavors despite promises to include them in the compliance policy.

Merkley, who oversees the FDA in his role as the top Democrat on the FDA/Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, has introduced legislation that would ban e-cigarette flavors that deliberately target youth. Wyden also has introduced legislation that would tax e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products.

In addition to Wyden, Merkley, and Murray, the letter was also signed by U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Jack Reed, D-R.I., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Angus King, I-Maine, Bob Casey, D-Penn., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.

A copy of the letter is available here.