Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately

Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately
© Getty Images

A bipartisan group of senators on Friday called for the acting head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove most e-cigarettes from the market immediately until they can be proven safe.

Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats ramp up warnings on Russian election meddling The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Negotiators signal relief bill stuck, not dead White House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders MORE (D-Ill.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS MORE (R-Alaska), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Merkley, Sanders introduce bill limiting corporate facial recognition MORE (D-Ore.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless urging him to pull all pod- and cartridge-based e-cigarettes. 

“The proliferation of cartridge-based e-cigarettes—and their ever-increasing popularity with children—is primarily due to the FDA’s years-long refusal to regulate any e-cigarette devices or impose common-sense design standards preventing against adulteration, despite having the authority to do so,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The letter follows the Trump administration’s announcement last week that it intends to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from the market until they can be reviewed by FDA.

The move was largely applauded at the time, but Durbin has been leading the charge for the FDA to do more, quicker.

The FDA was initially supposed to begin reviewing e-cigarettes last summer, but the deadline was pushed back to 2022.

There are primarily two distinct types of e-cigarette devices for sale in the U.S.: cartridge-based systems and open-tank systems.  

Open-tank systems are typically sold in vape shops, but cartridge-based systems, such as Juul and Vuse, are widely available in convenience stores.

FDA last week said flavored e-cigarette products would not be allowed back on the market unless or until they can prove a “net public health benefit.” Durbin and the other senators said the agency should apply that standard to all e-cigarettes. 

“[G]iven the unique popularity and threat posed to children, the same reasonable restrictions and presumption of public health impact that are being imposed upon flavored products, should immediately be imposed upon cartridge-based e-cigarettes,” the senators wrote.

The e-cigarette industry has suffered a series of high-profile setbacks as federal and state governments have cracked down in the wake of soaring rates of youth vaping.

A lung disease tied to vaping products has sickened 530 people nationwide, and resulted in eight deaths. Health officials have not identified one brand or substance as the cause, but most patients reported vaping THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces a high.

Walmart announced Friday it will stop selling e-cigarettes.

On Thursday, Merkley, along with Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRon Johnson signals some GOP senators concerned about his Obama-era probes Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Trump slams 'rogue' Sasse after criticism of executive actions MORE (R-Utah) introduced legislation that would ban all flavors of e-cigarettes except tobacco. 

The governors of New York and Michigan also announced bans this week on the sale of flavored e-cigarette products.