Lowey Hosts Roundtable Discussion on Teenage Vaping, Tobacco Use
WEST NYACK, NY – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester) today hosted a roundtable discussion at Rockland BOCES in West Nyack about the alarming increase in e-cigarette use among teens and about her efforts at the federal level to regulate e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
Lowey was joined at the roundtable by Rockland County Legislator Aney Paul; Denise Hogan, Program Manager at POW’R Against Tobacco; Chris Sherwin, Vice President for State Advocacy at Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids; and local school officials and students.
“E-cigarette use among young people is becoming the next public health emergency,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “The numbers prove it is all too easy for children to get their hands on e-cigarettes and vaping chemicals, including in vape shops and online. We know these devices are addictive gateways to tobacco products. And yet, the FDA is not doing enough to protect our communities, especially our children, from these dangerous products. That needs to change.”
E-cigarette use among teens has risen tenfold in the past decade, to 16 percent of teens in 2015, despite warnings that these devices are not safe for youth. In addition, many tobacco companies and vape shops actively market products toward children, with flavors like Fruit Loops, Gummy Bears, and Swedish Fish that mask the dangerous, addictive chemicals in e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will use its authority to lower the levels of nicotine in cigarettes, the agency has also announced that it will delay deadlines for reviewing ingredients in e-cigarettes by up to five years.
During an April 17 Appropriations hearing, Lowey challenged FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on the agency’s approach to e-cigarettes, warning that delaying action will put youth at unnecessary risk. In particular, Lowey challenged Gottlieb to remove from the market JUUL devices, which are among the most popular e-cigarettes available, resemble a flash drive, can be charged in the USB port of a computer, offer kid-friendly flavors like cool mint and fruit medley, and deliver nicotine at a higher level than most e-cigarettes. While Gottlieb promised “vigorous enforcement steps” on e-cigarettes from the FDA, he did not commit to a timeline.
“We know that if a person doesn’t use tobacco products until they are 21 or older, there is very little chance that they will ever use them,” said Rockland County Legislator Aney Paul said. “The statements made by participants at today’s roundtable hosted by Congresswoman Nita Lowey only underline the need for further action. Today, too many young people see vaping as a glamorous or cool behavior when, in fact, it poses myriad health questions and continues to expose users to nicotine. By working together, I am confident we will be able to meet the challenges and I thank Congresswoman Lowey for pursuing this issue on the federal level.”
“The rapid rise in teen use of Juul e-cigarettes threatens to addict a new generation and undermine the enormous progress we’ve made in reducing youth tobacco use. The appeal of Juul to kids is clear – it’s high-tech and easy to hide, comes in sweet flavors and delivers a strong dose of nicotine. We’re grateful for Congresswoman Lowey’s leadership in fighting to protect kids from all tobacco products and pushing the FDA to act now to address youth use of Juul and similar tobacco products,” said Chris Sherwin, Vice President of State Advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“Tobacco 21 will protect our youth from a lifetime of addiction and illness. We know 96% of smokers began smoking before the age of 21, with most starting before the age of 16. If our youth reaches the age of 21 before smoking, chances of them ever doing so drops to only 2%. Our youth are our future and we need to do everything we can to give them a tobacco free life,” said Denise Hogan, Program Manager at POW’R Against Tobacco.
The roundtable discussion came on the heels of a new law in Rockland County that raises the age to purchase tobacco to 21. Lowey, who has cosponsored legislation at the federal level to increase the purchase age for tobacco products to 21 nationwide – H.R. 4273, the Tobacco to 21 Act – applauded the county legislature’s decision.
“I am honored to be here to commend Rockland County for raising the age for the purchase of tobacco products to 21,” said Lowey. “In particular, I’d like to recognize Rockland County Legislator Aney Paul for her work to pass this bill, which will improve the public health of our young people. I’d also like to recognize Chris Sherwin, Vice President of State Advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, for traveling here today. Thanks to your work, fewer young people will get hooked on tobacco and nicotine.”