Tobacco

Lawmakers Ask FDA to Clear E-Cigarettes From Market Amid Pandemic

U.S. Representative cites a study that associates smoking with the coronavirus
Vaping with a mask on
Photograph: Shutterstock

SILVER SPRING, Md. — A congressman and the committee he heads are calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to temporarily clear the market of all e-cigarettes for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, head of the House Committee and Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent the letter on behalf of himself and the subcommittee on Aug. 11 to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

The Democrat from Schaumburg, Ill., said he presented studies on April 1 to the FDA as part of the subcommittee’s ongoing investigation into the youth vaping epidemic that indicated the coronavirus presents greater risk to e-cigarette users. The FDA declined to act at the time, citing the need for more evidence that vaping is a risk factor for contracting the coronavirus, Krishnamoorthi said.

“Today, we have the evidence that the FDA was waiting for, and it can no longer deny the danger e-cigarettes pose during the coronavirus crisis,” he said.

The evidence Krishnamoorthi references is from a study, “Association Between Youth Smoking, Electronic Cigarette Use, and Coronavirus Disease 2019,” published Aug. 11 in the Journal of Adolescent Health. It was based on an online national survey of adolescents and young adults and conducted in May.

The study concluded that COVID-19 is associated with youth use of e-cigarettes only and dual use of e-cigarette and cigarettes, suggesting the need for screening and education. There could be several reasons for this, the study said, including that heightened exposure to nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigarettes adversely affect lung functions and COVID-19 spreads through repeated touching of one’s hands to the mouth and face, which is common among smokers.

“If we reduce the number of vapers in America, we will reduce the unnecessary stress we are putting on our testing system,” Krishnamoorthi said. “People should not have to wait weeks for COVID-19 test results—removing the risk posed by vaping will help.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, noted on its website, “it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people,” and there is ongoing investigation to determine more about COVID-19.

The subcommittee asked that the FDA confirms in writing by Aug. 18 whether it indents to temporarily clear the market of all e-cigarettes.

The FDA has already taken steps to address teen illnesses associated with vaping. It also banned flavored cartridges from the market until those products receive authorization through the premarket tobacco application (PMTA) process.

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