Senator Sherrod Brown Introduces… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Senator Sherrod Brown Introduces Senate Version of Comprehensive Legislation to Reverse E-Cigarette Epidemic and Drive Down Youth Tobacco Use

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 09, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2020 introduced today by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). This legislation provides the comprehensive strategy needed to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic that is sweeping across the country and to continue to drive down youth tobacco use.

We applaud Senator Brown for his leadership in working to stop tobacco companies from targeting kids. The bill’s prohibition on flavored tobacco products that appeal to kids, including flavored e-cigarettes of all types, flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes, is especially critical to stop tobacco companies from continuing to target and addict kids with enticing flavors. The facts are clear that flavored e-cigarettes are driving the youth e-cigarette epidemic. Flavored cigars have also proliferated in recent years to such an extent that more than one million high school students are now users, and menthol cigarettes are now used by more than half of all youth smokers, including seven out of ten African-American youth smokers. Prohibiting flavored tobacco products is one of the most important steps we can take to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic and continue reducing tobacco use.

This legislation is even more critical in light of the recent FDA guidance issued by the Trump Administration on e-cigarettes that was riddled with loopholes favoring the tobacco and vaping industries.

In addition to prohibiting flavored tobacco products, this bill includes other strong provisions that can accelerate progress in reducing tobacco use and save lives. These provisions:

· Prohibit online sales of tobacco products

  • Extend advertising restrictions that currently apply to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. These include prohibitions on brand-name sponsorships of sports, music or other events and distribution of non-tobacco items (such as shirts and hats) with tobacco brand names.
  • Require the FDA to issue a final rule to implement graphic health warnings on cigarette packs and advertising, as required by the 2009 Tobacco Control Act.

There is conclusive evidence that flavors play a critical role in youth initiation and continued use of tobacco products. The vast majority of youth tobacco users report starting with a flavored product and that they use tobacco products because they like particular flavors. There are more than 15,000 e-liquid flavors that will continue to be on the market despite the recent Trump Administration policy, and flavored cigars make up about half of the U.S. cigar market. Until legislation like the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act or the SAFE Kids Act, introduced by Senators Durbin and Murkowski, are passed, flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy, and unicorn poop that clearly appeal to kids will still be widely and readily available.

Flavored products, especially Juul, have driven the skyrocketing youth e-cigarette epidemic which now threatens the enormous, decades-long progress our nation has made in reducing youth tobacco use. Between 2017 and 2019, e-cigarette use increased nationwide by an alarming 135 percent among high school students, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS). More than 5 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users in 2019.

Flavored cigars are also popular among youth. Over one million high school students smoke cigars, with more high school boys smoking cigars than cigarettes. African American high school students smoke cigars at significantly higher rates compared to other races or ethnicities.

There is also more than enough evidence to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes. Menthol cools and numbs the throat and reduces the harshness of tobacco smoke, making menthol cigarettes more appealing for kids who are starting to smoke. Over half of youth smokers ages 12-17 – and seven in ten African-American youth smokers – use menthol cigarettes. A comprehensive FDA scientific analysis, issued in 2013, concluded that menthol cigarettes 1) increase smoking initiation and progression to regular smoking among youth and young adults; 2) increase nicotine dependence (addiction); and 3) reduce success in quitting smoking.

For decades, the tobacco industry has engaged in targeted marketing of menthol cigarettes to African Americans and to youth. The marketing and availability of menthol cigarettes is a likely contributor to the higher rates of tobacco-caused death and disease experienced by African Americans.

This evidence led the FDA, in November 2018, to announce that it would seek to ban menthol in combustible tobacco products, including cigarettes and cigars. But the FDA has yet to propose a rule to do so, underscoring the need for Congress to act. At the time of the November 2018 announcement, then FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated, “I believe these menthol-flavored products represent one of the most common and pernicious routes by which kids initiate on combustible cigarettes. The menthol serves to mask some of the unattractive features of smoking that might otherwise discourage a child from smoking. Moreover, I believe that menthol products disproportionately and adversely affect underserved communities. And as a matter of public health, they exacerbate troubling disparities in health related to race and socioeconomic status...”

Senators Blumenthal, Cardin, Durbin, Harris, Markey, Merkley, Reed and Whitehouse have all co-sponsored the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act.