Romney urges HHS to consider recall of e-cigarettes

Romney urges HHS to consider recall of e-cigarettes
© Aaron Schwartz

Federal health authorities should strongly consider recalling e-cigarettes in the wake of a vaping-linked illness that’s killed at least six people and sickened hundreds, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Falling investment revives attacks against Trump's tax cuts GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week MORE (R-Utah) said.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Romney expressed concern that experts don’t know what’s been causing people to become ill — aside from e-cigarettes.

“These devices are already in the hands of millions of users–including an increasing number of young people–and health experts do not yet have a full understanding of the causes of these devastating health outcomes,” Romney wrote.

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In order for a product to be considered for the most serious type of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recall, it must be considered dangerous or defective, and “predictably could cause serious health problems or death.”

In his letter, Romney said Azar should consider whether e-cigarettes meet this threshold.

He also asked what the FDA is doing to ensure the safety of e-cigarette refill pods, noting that e-cigarette users have been modifying pods “to include other illicit and harmful substances.” 

Federal and state officials are scrambling to find out what’s causing severe lung disease in some e-cigarette users. More than 450 people have fallen ill across 33 states, and at least six people have died.

E-cigarettes are in a regulatory gray area, and lawmakers have seized on the vaping illnesses as examples of the dangers of the products. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are under pressure to act.

Federal officials have not identified a vape product or substance linking all the cases. 

Most patients reported using e-cigarette products containing elements of marijuana, including THC, but some patients also reported using nicotine-based products as well.

Still, officials are advising people to stop using any vaping products, whether it’s nicotine or marijuana.