November 13, 2019

At Senate Hearing, Kaine Presses Top FDA Tobacco Official On Delay Of Flavored E-Cigarette Ban


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, amid the Trump Administration’s delay in issuing a final policy to address the growing epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, Kaine pressed the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products Director Mitch Zeller on whether the Trump Administration will honor their pledge to ban all non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes. In response, Zeller said, “there is no final answer.” Kaine asked these questions during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Hearing titled, “Examining the Response to Lung Illnesses and Rising Youth Electronic Cigarette Use” with Zeller and the CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, MD. 

At the hearing, Kaine said to Zeller, “The Administration announced that your agency­­ ­— and you are the chief official over tobacco at this agency  that it was the intent of the Administration to issue regulations clearing the market of unauthorized flavored e-cigarettes. Is that still the intent of the Administration?”

After Zeller told him there’s no final answer to his question about the flavor ban, Kaine said, “You are the person responsible. You should know the answer to this question because you knew what the title of the hearing was and you have the job… We should get an answer to this question about whether the Administration is going to honor the policy that they announced or not.”

Kaine was joined at the hearing by Nathan Robson, a student from Arlington concerned about youth e-cigarette use. Nathan also attended a roundtable discussion Kaine held in Arlington on October 18 to discuss efforts to address this issue.

In May, Kaine and Leader McConnell introduced the Tobacco-Free Youth Actlegislation to raise the nationwide minimum age to buy all tobacco products from 18 to 21. The bill passed the HELP Committee in June. Last month, Kaine joined a letter to HHS Secretary Azar denouncing the Administration’s delay in issuing a final compliance policy to better address the growing epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. The Senators urged the FDA to finalize its promised compliance policy and clear the market of unauthorized, flavored e-cigarette products, including mint and menthol flavors. In April 2018, Kaine joined two letters to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and JUUL Labs, Inc. raising concerns about youth access and use of flavored e-cigarettes. In the letter to the FDA, Kaine and his colleagues urged the agency to take immediate steps to ban kid-friendly flavorings that are used in e-cigarettes and cigars. Kaine also introduced the Saving Lives Through Better Data Act, bipartisan legislation to modernize public health data infrastructure so clinicians, state health departments, and the CDC can work together more quickly and seamlessly to identify and respond to health threats like the current outbreak of vaping-linked lung injuries.