Sen. Chuck Schumer wants the feds to start regulating electronic cigarettes due to the growing number of teens using them.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) pointed the finger at one product known as “Juul” — an e-cigarette that looks like a USB flash drive — which he blamed for the rising popularity of vaping among high school kids.
One in five New York high school students have used an e-cigarette in the last year, according to data from the New York State Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Advisory Board — nearly double the national rate.
“We’ve made progress in the last decade keeping cigarettes out of people’s hands, particularly kids. But with e-cigarettes with their trendy packaging, their kid-friendly flavors, are moving us backward,” Schumer said at a press conference at his Manhattan office.
“It is safe to say that e-cigarette companies are stepping over the line to market these products to kids, to get them hooked to smoking. And they’re hoping the federal government turns a blind eye. Unfortunately, that is what’s happening.”
The Food and Drug Administration had finalized a rule that would have regulated e-cigarettes but opted in July to hold off on putting it into effect.
Schumer urged the FDA to reverse course and enact the rule, which would impose a minimum age of 18 for the faux smokes nationwide, ban them from being sold in vending machines and prohibit free samples.
Electronic cigarettes don’t contain tobacco or tar, but they do contain addictive nicotine. Little is known about their long term health effects — backers say they’re safe, but opponents say in addition to being bad on their own, their addictive properties can lead users to conventional cigarettes.
Schumer said the Juul brand is especially easy for kids to sneak around, since it looks like a flash drive and can be recharged by plugging it into a computer. It comes in flavors such as mango, cool mint, Virginia tobacco, fruit medley and creme brulee.
The company’s website features disclaimers that it is only for adults and online purchasers must be at least 21 years old.
“JUUL was designed to displace cigarettes and is intended for use only by adult smokers who want to switch from cigarettes. We strongly condemn the use of our product by minors,” said Juul spokeswoman Christine Castro, adding the company uses age verification technology to make sure minors don’t buy from their website and supports “effective regulation” of the industry.