Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Lowey Hosts Roundtable Discussion on Teen E-Cigarette Use

August 2, 2017
Press Release
Estimated 3 Million Teens Use Dangerous E-cigs

White Plains, NY – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester) today brought together local superintendents, medical experts, substance abuse prevention workers and advocates, and students for a roundtable discussion on e-cigarette use among teens. The discussion, which Congresswoman Lowey convened in her White Plains office, focused on the alarming increase in e-cigarette use among teens, the dangers of youth smoking, and how parents and community leaders can work to reduce youth use of e-cigarettes and tobacco products.

“Vaping is a threat to the health of our children,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “Today’s meeting was an excellent opportunity to discuss serious concerns about teenage e-cigarette use and to gain important insights that will help us combat youth smoking. Five years ago, parents would have worried about their kids taking in too much sugar from a steady diet of Fruit Loops, Gummy Bears, and Swedish Fish. Today, we’re worried that vaping products with those flavors will expose them to dangerous, addictive chemicals. We can’t afford to lose another generation to the harms of nicotine addiction.”

While federal law prohibits children under the age of 18 from purchasing tobacco products, the numbers show that children are easily able to acquire e-cigarettes and vaping chemicals. E-cigarette use among teens has risen tenfold in the past decade to 16 percent, or an estimated 3 million American teens, in 2015. Additionally, many tobacco companies and vape shops actively market their products toward children, with more than 7,000 flavors of e-cigarettes, including common candies and treats.

The dangers of teens using e-cigarettes are well documented. In testimony before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stated unequivocally that “Teenagers that otherwise would have no transition into smoking combustible tobacco are doing so after they get first exposed to electronic cigarettes, so we are concerned that all of the advances we’ve done on prevention of smoking may be lost by the accessibility of these electronic cigarette devices.”

“The rapid increase in use of e-cigarettes by our youth is a serious health concern,” said Dr. Richard Stumacher, a pulmonary disease specialist at Northern Westchester Hospital. “Nicotine is an incredibly addictive substance, and it remains to be seen what diseases will be caused by vaping and how serious those diseases will be.”

“While e-cigarettes may be a safer alternative for those already addicted to cigarettes, they are a major threat to the 96 percent of high school youth in New York State who do not smoke,” said Ellen Morehouse, Executive Director of Student Assistance Services Corporation. “Teen e-cigarette users are over eight times more likely to become regular cigarette users after one year than teens who do not use e-cigarettes, and e-cigarette using teens often use other drugs such as concentrated THC oil in their e-cigarette devices.”

In Congress, Congresswoman Lowey is leading the fight to regulate e-cigarettes. In July, Congresswoman Lowey offered an amendment in the House Appropriations Committee to protect the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s ability to regulate the chemicals and batteries used in e-cigarettes. In 2015, Congresswoman Lowey also sent a letter to Stephen Ostroff, then-Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Sylvia Matthews Burwell, then-Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), urging finalization of regulations on new tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, flavored hookahs, and flavored cigars.

Participants in today’s roundtable discussion included:

  • Mary Fox-Alter, Superintendent, Pleasantville School District
  • Carol Conklin-Spillane, Superintendent, Pocantico Hills Central School District
  • Marco Pochintesta, Superintendent, Pearl River School District
  • Frank Williams, Executive Director, White Plains Youth Bureau
  • Ellen Morehouse, Executive Director, Student Assistance Services Corp.
  • Colleen Anderson, Coordinator, Cortlandt Community Coalition
  • Dr. Richard Stumacher, Northern Westchester Hospital (pulmonary disease specialist)
  • Makeda James, Program Manager, Reality Check/POW’R Against Tobacco
  • Dr. Bhavana Pahwa, Deputy Director, City of White Plains Youth Bureau

Additional photos from the roundtable can be found here.