Some 250 cardiovascular disease patients, survivors, caregivers, researchers descended on Washington, D.C. this week to urge lawmakers to remove flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars and menthol cigarettes, from the market.
The activists, part of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) You’re the Cure grassroots network, were in the nation’s capital for congressional hearings about the health threats of electronic cigarettes taking place in both the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies.
AHA CEO Nancy Brown said the use of e-cigarettes by the nation’s youth is an “epidemic.”
“The crisis is driven by electronic cigarette companies that market more than 15,000 fruit, candy and mint flavors to kids, resulting in 97 percent of current youth e-cigarette users preferring flavored products.”
Brown - and other health experts - say flavored e-cigarettes attract kids to tobacco use.
“That’s why the Trump administration announced last month that it would ‘clear the market’ of flavored e-cigarettes,” said Brown. “With more than one in four high-school students now using e-cigarettes and a generation at risk for a lifetime of nicotine addition, we urge the administration to move forward and remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market without delay, and we ask lawmakers to pass comprehensive legislation to keep all flavored tobacco products out of the hands of our nation’s children.
Meanwhile, e-cigarette manufacturer Juul announced yesterday that it will voluntarily stop selling mango, crème, fruit and cucumber flavored versions of its flavored nicotine products. Those flavors account for less than 10% of Juul’s sales.
Brown said the decision was "way too little, way too late," pointing out that nearly two-thirds of high school e-cigarette users choose Juul's mint- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, and those flavors will continue to be sold by Juul.
"For years, the company spent millions of dollars marketing fruit, candy and mint flavors to children, contributing to a skyrocketing rise in youth e-cigarette use and threatening to addict a new generation to nicotine," said Brown. She called on Congress and the administration to ban all flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol.
E-cigarette makers have defended their products as being safer than traditional cigarettes and as tools to help smokers quit smoking, although there is a dearth of evidence to support either claim. Serious lung injuries among people who have vaped has led to greater scrutiny of the products and, in some cases, lawsuits against e-cigarette manufacturers.