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Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock is set to testify before a House subcommittee on Wednesday morning about youth vaping. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D., Ill.), chair of the panel, plans to press Woodcock to do more to stop kids from vaping and becoming addicted to nicotine.
"We still have a youth vaping epidemic, even amidst our pandemic," said Krishnamoorthi.
Krishnamoorthi has been an advocate for cracking down on the vaping industry over the past several years. In 2019, amid an outbreak of vaping-related illness, there was bipartisan support for a crackdown — leading the Trump administration to issue a vaping flavor ban in an effort to curb teenage use and nicotine addiction.
The ban covered flavors that critics argued targeted children — like fruit, mint and candy flavors — but allowed menthol and tobacco flavors to remain legal. The ban only applied to cartridges or pre-filled pod devices, like the ones sold by Juul, not disposable e-cigarettes. Some critics argued the move wasn't enough.
"You've got to get rid of all the flavors. Secondly, you have to make sure that disposable cigarettes are subject to the same flavor ban that all other products are subject to — and then third, we have to regulate the nicotine content," said Krishnamoorthi. "These vapes that are currently on the market are so addictive."
Teen vaping has dropped according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey released in September 2020. It found about 20% of high schoolers and 5% of middle schoolers had recently used e-cigarettes or vaping products — down from 28% and 11% in 2019. However, the survey also found almost 40% of high schoolers cigarette users are using the products at least 20 days per month. There was also an "alarming increase" in the number of young people using disposable e-cigarettes.
"The jury is now back and we know the results of what happened with that partial flavor ban that the Trump administration put in, which is it didn't work. And now we have to get to something that works, and that has to be incorporated into the PMTA [Premarket Tobacco Product Application] process," said Krishnamoorthi.
The FDA is in the process of considering applications from e-cigarette makers and will decide if the products should remain on the market at all, or if there should be certain restrictions on them.
Krishnamoorthi told Yahoo Finance the hearing will be key to understanding the "philosophical approach" of the Biden administration toward youth vaping.
"Is it one where, unfortunately, they do what the Trump administration did, which was basically politicize the process and create these huge loopholes, in a bid to win favor from certain constituencies? Or are they 100% on the side of children? Because we cannot have a situation where our children are targets of this industry. Our children are not for sale," said Krishnamoorthi.
Earlier this year, the FDA said it was moving to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, citing the addictiveness and harm of the products.
Yahoo Finance reached out to Juul for comment about this story.
Jessica Smith is chief political correspondent for Yahoo Finance, based in Washington, D.C.