Here's how to fight the skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes by young people
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The Trump administration recently announced its long-awaited plan to fight the teen-vaping epidemic that has spread like wildfire across the nation. Recent government reports indicate that about 28 percent of high school and about 11 percent of middle school students have used an e-cigarette in the past month.

This is a direct threat to the health and well-being of millions of young people. E-cigarettes deliver a large amount of the highly addictive drug nicotine, which has been shown to negatively affect brain development in children. We know from past investigations and lawsuits that the tobacco industry targeted young people for decades to expand the market for its deadly product. Hearings before my Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy established that the leading purveyor of vaping cartridges, JUUL Labs, purposely marketed its “vapes” to young people.

I was pleased when, in response to findings from our congressional investigation, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump campaign files for new recount in Georgia GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results FDA grants emergency approval to coronavirus antibody treatment given to Trump MORE promised to take strong action to fight the teen-vaping epidemic by banning the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol. After the vaping industry mounted a strong campaign to influence its decision, the Trump administration came out with a half-measure: banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes with the notable exclusion of menthol.

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Allowing companies like JUUL to continue selling menthol-flavored vapes is a problem. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, 97 percent of youth e-cigarette users reported using a flavored product in the last month, and according to the National Institutes of Health, 91 percent of youth e-cigarette users say they used e-cigarettes because “It comes in flavors that [they] like.” Mint is one of the most popular flavors among youth, and menthol is derived from mint and shares many of its flavor characteristics. Simply put, with other flavors denied to them, there is a strong likelihood that menthol will be an attractive alternative for teen vapers.

It is also worth noting that African-Americans suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related mortality of any racial or ethnic group in the United States, and 7 out of 10 African-American youth smokers use menthol. It is evident that the menthol exclusion will adversely impact the public health of minority communities who have higher levels of nicotine dependence on this flavor.

Vaping industry lobbyists hope the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will approve applications for kid-friendly flavors to reenter the market, effectively repealing the partial flavored-vaping ban – a hope which became more plausible when President Trump recently called his administration’s new anti-vaping plan “temporary,” and said that “hopefully everything will be back on the market very, very shortly.”

While the President’s half-measure may have solved his political problem with the vaping industry, there are a number of steps Congress can take in this new year to address the skyrocketing use of e-cigarettes by young people:

First, we should push for a complete ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol. 

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Second, we should regulate the amount of nicotine contained in e-cigarettes. Currently, one JUUL pod contains a nicotine concentration of nearly 60 milligrams per milliliter, which is more nicotine than an entire pack of combustible cigarettes. I have introduced a bill to cap that amount at 20 milliliters. This is the level of nicotine allowed in e-cigarettes sold in other countries – which have not experienced a teen-vaping epidemic comparable to ours.

Third, we need a strong public education program to alert teenagers to the dangers of nicotine. Studies have shown that most teens aren’t aware that nicotine is in e-cigarettes – a problem exacerbated by our subcommittee’s finding that JUUL’s direct youth marketing described their product as “safe.” To that end, Sen. Richard DurbinDick DurbinEnding Trump's transactional arrogance on our public lands President is wild card as shutdown fears grow Biden picks Obama communications director to lead confirmation team: report MORE (D-Ill.), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), and I have introduced the PREVENT Act that would tax vaping companies and provide $200 million annually for youth e-cigarette prevention programs in schools across the country.

Finally, as the administration considers next year whether to grant applications for e-cigarettes to be on the market, I urge them to listen to the science. When a consumer product directly threatens the health and well-being of the next generation of Americans, it is time to put politics aside and stand up for our children.

Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiHHS scraps celebrity COVID-19 ad campaign aimed at 'defeating despair' Documents show 'political' nature of Trump COVID ad campaign, lawmakers say Trust and transparency are necessary to make COVID-19 vaccine successful MORE represents the 8th District of Illinois.