U.S. Senator Dick Durbin seeks ban on e-cigarette marketing to kids
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin called for stronger regulation of e-cigarette products, including a ban on kid-friendly flavors, at a press conference at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Bloomington, Ill., on Tuesday.
“Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind who they’re marketing to? They’re selling to kids an addictive product,” Durbin said, citing vape companies that sell e-liquids used in e-cigarettes with labels resembling Sour Patch Kids, Nilla wafers, Reddi-wip and other common candies, cookies and juice boxes.
— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) May 1, 2018
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
The Senator’s announcement came on the same day that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission issued 13 warning letters to manufacturers, distributors and retailers accused of advertising to kids with cartoon-like imagery and illegally selling to minors. Last week the FDA said it had started a sting operation aimed at retailers that sold trendy JUUL devices, which look like USB drives and have drawn the ire of schools across the country.
Flanked by Colleen Kannaday, president of Advocate BroMenn, and Dr. James Nevin, vice president of medical management and an emergency medicine physician, Durbin also advocated for raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and for stronger enforcement on the sale of e-cigarettes, including where they can be sold. If teens can avoid nicotine until turning 21, he said, they are much less likely to become addicted.
E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes and produce a vapor by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine — the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products — along with flavorings and other chemicals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarettes “have the potential to benefit adult smokers” if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products but are “not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”
“We don’t know right now what some of these vapors are doing,” Dr. Nevin said, but noted users are certainly exposed to nicotine, which can harm adolescent brain development and increase heart rate and anxiety. E-cigarettes are the most used tobacco product among youth, he said, with more than 2 million teenagers using them last year — a 653 percent increase over five years ago.
“Originally, vaping was sold as the healthy alternative to tobacco cigarettes, the way to end tobacco addiction,” Durbin explained. “And it turns out it’s insidious and harmful in and of itself, and it doesn’t guarantee any end to tobacco addiction.”
“The past is prologue,” Dr. Nevin said, alluding to past battles over marketing tobacco products to children. “If we don’t act now, it’s going to be too late.”
About the Author
Adam Mesirow, health enews managing editor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. A media relations specialist with more than seven years’ experience securing high-profile media placements, he loves to tell a good story. Adam earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. He lives in Chicago and enjoys playing sports, reading TIME magazine and a little nonsense now and then.