HHS: With E-Cigs, Life Is Not a Vapor
October 01, 2019
They come in mango, bubble gum, watermelon, even Fruit Loop flavors -- but these e-cigarettes aren't candy. They're dangerous and unregulated -- and fighting to bring them under control may be the first area of common ground between both parties in a very long time.
You won't find Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) and President Trump on the same side often -- but the vaping crisis is enough to bring everyone together. With the news that e-cigarette use has doubled in just two years, the public outcry is growing to do something -- and fast. "It's not good news at all," said Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who found her group's national survey results so shocking that they released them three months early. One in four students in the 12th grade is now saying they've vaped in the last 30 days. That number is one in five for sophomores and one in 11 in the 8th grade. Add that to the spike in vaping-related illnesses, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar believes there's a serious problem on our hands.
The flavors are drawing kids in, but it's the nicotine that keeps them coming back. And, as Secretary Azar told listeners on Monday's "Washington Watch," that's no small issue. "Frankly, a single pod of these things, these e-cigarettes things... can contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. But [people] don't know that. You don't know how much you're getting in. You don't know what concentration you're getting in. And kids who start on these e-cigarettes are more likely than non-users to migrate to smoke and combustible tobacco. It's a real epidemic..."
So much so that he, the acting leader of the FDA, Dr. Ned Sharpless, and Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, wrote a joint op-ed warning Americans that the government is about to get very involved in protecting kids. When I asked what steps the administration might take, Secretary Azar explained that some people have accused them of pursuing a "ban." But, he explains, "It's not actually a ban. Congress has a statute called the Tobacco Control Act. And the statute says that before any cigarette can be on the market, they have to go to the Food and Drug Administration, which I run. And you have to get approval. Just like with any drug or medical device."
In other words, these manufacturers would have to prove that their products are in the "public health interest" and explain why it should be on the market. "And what the president said," Azar pointed out, "is any of these products that are attractive to kids that are causing this epidemic, we want them off the market. You need to come in and get approval by FDA before you go back on the market. So it's a pause button that will let FDA control the nicotine levels, the other ingredients in the product to make sure that it is safe, makes sure the device can't be manipulated as a marijuana delivery device or for unsafe purposes, and also regulate how you're going to distribute the product to make sure it's not attractive and available to our kids."
It's all about empowering adults and parents to take charge of the harmful influences over kids. After all, the secretary explained, these pods are designed to be hidden. "They're able to conceal them from [teachers] and from parents. And they get a buzz -- they get a nicotine buzz that rapidly becomes an addiction. [Now we have] this explosion of youth use. And what it's meant is parents and families and teachers and administrators at schools... they've lost control. And that's what the president wants to do, is put them back in the driver's seat so that they can help keep their kids away from these highly addictive, attractive substances."
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.