The administration banned many flavored vaping products — but it’s not enough
Nearly 30 years ago, smoking was the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and Big Tobacco profited off of its deceptive marketing tactics to hook entire generations.
As the public began to learn more about the dangers of cigarettes, local governments began to take a stand. At the time, I was mayor of Concord, Calif., and had spent the first part of my career owning and operating restaurants in the Bay Area. As mayor, I voted for one of the first secondhand smoking bans in the nation by outlawing smoking in restaurants.
We took on Big Tobacco – and we won.
Cut to 2020 and we can see the snowball effect this victory had. Twenty-six states have enacted statewide bans on smoking in all enclosed workplaces, Congress passed a measure requiring all cigarettes have prominent warning labels, and the federal government launched its own campaign to discourage smoking. As a result of these efforts, tobacco use has steadily declined, with traditional tobacco usage reaching its lowest level ever recorded in 2018. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that in 2017, only 14 percent of adults and 10 percent of young people aged 18 to 24 were regular cigarette smokers in the U.S.
Sadly, today that progress is in jeopardy because of companies like Juul, which are assuming the role of Big Tobacco 2.0.
The CDC found that more than one in four high school students had used an e-cigarette in the last 30 days. These teens are exposed to dangerous levels of nicotine that far surpass what is found in an individual cigarette, posing serious health risks including improper brain development. The CDC reports that at least 2,051 cases of lung injuries and 39 deaths of individuals with a history of using e-cigarettes have been confirmed.
The administration’s recent announcement that most flavored vaping products must be removed from sale within 30 days is not enough.
We need bold action.
That is why I introduced the Preventing Vape Use Act (H.R. 5005), which would immediately halt the sale of all e-cigarette devices until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews them for safety.
For nearly a decade, the vaping industry has escaped regulation – profiting off the backs of teens to the tune of $7 billion in annual sales – all while claiming that its products are safe and can even be used to help individuals quit smoking. So far, the FDA has not weighed in, allowing companies to continuously poison our children.
Our bill builds on efforts around the country, including in the Bay Area, where San Francisco effectively banned the sale of e-cigarettes and voters resoundingly supported the measure despite Juul’s multimillion dollar opposition. The Richmond City Council, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, among others, all followed suit and passed similar measures.
If we are going to prevent another generation from falling prey to nicotine addiction and the life-threatening illnesses that come with it, we need to come together and decisively tell e-cigarette companies that we will not tolerate their deception and predatory practices.
We beat Big Tobacco before, and we can do it again.
Mark DeSaulnier represents most of Contra Costa County in Congress. He serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is leading the investigation into Juul.