Sen. Romney cosponsors bill to fight youth vape crisis, hold e-cigarette companies accountable

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (ABC4) — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) was one of five cosponsors for a bipartisan bill — sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) — that would hold e-cigarette companies accountable and protect children from their products.

In addition to Romney, other cosponsors of S.3653 are Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-ME).

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A press release from Sen. Romney’s office referred to the bill as the “Resources to Prevent Youth Vaping Act.” The release stated the act would require manufacturers of e-cigarettes to pay user fees to the Food and Drug Administration.

Per the press release, “Manufacturers of traditional combustible tobacco products pay FDA user fees, but e-cigarette companies are exempt due to a loophole in the law.”

The release also stated user fees would help increase awareness of the danger of e-cigarettes.

“By granting the FDA the authorization to collect user fees on e-cigarettes, our legislation will further efforts to tackle the vaping crisis and protect children from these increasingly addictive and illicit products,” Romney said.

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Romney also said vape products often target a younger demographic with the sweeter, candy-like flavors, a sentiment echoed by the sponsor and other cosponsors of the bill.

“E-cigarettes continue to be an epidemic among our youth, and it’s unacceptable that manufacturers continue to market their harmful products to young people without facing serious consequences,” Shaheen said.

According to a study by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2022, 2.55 million middle and high school students in the U.S. reported currently using (within the past 30 days) an e-cigarette.

“The use of e-cigarettes by our young people threatens the progress we have made to reduce overall tobacco use,” Sen. Collins said.

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The findings of the FDA and CDC study revealed more than 30% of high schoolers and nearly 12% of middle schoolers reported daily use of an e-cigarette. Disposable e-cigarette products were the most common, favored by more than 55% of the youth in the study, with the most popular brand being Puff Bar.

The e-cigarette brand Puff Bar is not authorized by the FDA, and the company declares so on their website — and also claims “sale to minors is prohibited.” According to a 2021 letter from the American Lung Association to the FDA, the FDA sent a letter to Puff Bar in 2020, after which the company said they stopped selling products in the U.S.

The letter from the American Lung Association said Puff Bar later resumed sales and claimed it “reformulated the product so that it contains synthetic nicotine” as a way to “escape FDA jurisdiction.”

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“This bill will expand FDA’s authority to collect user fees on e-cigarette producers and put that money towards increasing youth awareness of its dangers and preventing sales of e-cigarettes to minors. This effort is all about protecting the health of our kids,” Sen. Murkowski said.

Puff Bar is still not authorized by the FDA, and, as revealed in the CDC study, Puff Bars were still the disposable e-cigarette of choice among American youth in 2022.

A 2023 study by the CDC revealed e-cigarette use had declined among high schoolers from 2022 to 2023 but increased among middle schoolers within that same timeframe. Despite the decrease amongst high schoolers, e-cigarettes were still the most common tobacco product for students in both middle and high school for the 10th year.

“We must stop this exploitation of kids and teens before another generation falls victim to the nicotine addiction epidemic,” Shaheen said.

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