As a teenager in the late 1950’s, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) watched his father suffer and die from lung cancer brought on by a “two-packs-of-Camels-a-day” smoking habit. Over the past two decades, Senator Durbin has been encouraged by anti-smoking efforts that has seen youth smoking rates drop from 28% to 8%. But the dramatic rise in youth e-cigarette use threatens to undo two decades of progress. Senator Durbin aims to do something about that, beginning with an editorial on CNN.com in which he is sharply critical of both “big tobacco” and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
“In the last year alone, we’ve seen a 78% increase in high school students vaping and a 48% increase in middle school students vaping — the largest single year increase in youth tobacco use”, Durbin writes. “And, unfortunately, the e-cigarette industry has found [an] accomplice in acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless. His unwillingness to address the vaping ‘epidemic’ in a real way is a major public health threat to our children. We risk a deadly, lifelong addiction of a generation of Americans if Dr. Sharpless doesn’t snap back to reality. ”
While calling out Dr. Sharpless for his apparent unwillingness to effectively address vaping, Senator Durbin also offers recommendations on what FDA can do. “While I am encouraged by the FDA’s anti-vaping ads, an ad campaign is clearly not enough to address youth vaping. Here are concrete steps that Dr. Sharpless has the authority to take today to address this public health epidemic: immediately ban kid-friendly flavors; order the removal of thousands of e-cigarette products that came to market illegally in recent years; and stop JUUL from claiming to be a smoking cessation device — given that JUUL has not conducted any clinical trials to prove such a claim.”
Senator Durbin is co-chair of the Congressional COPD Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral forum for members of Congress to discuss the needs of the 16-30 million Americans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and to advance solutions that will improve their health and quality of life while reducing the impacts of the disease on the healthcare system.