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As Youth E-Cigarette Use Continues to Rise, Senator Hassan Raises Alarm Over Delays in Efforts to Tackle the Crisis

Senator to FDA Official at Committee Hearing: ‘You’ve had plenty of time already – and kids and people, Americans all over this country, are being hurt and they are addicted.’

To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today pressed Mitch Zeller, Director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about the alarming rate of e-cigarette use among middle and high school students, as well her concerns over the response to the crisis by both the FDA and Juul, the nation’s largest e-cigarette company. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are over 5 million youth e-cigarette users nationwide.


Senator Hassan began her questioning at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing by pointing to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which found that New Hampshire has the highest percentage of high school students in the nation reporting daily use of e-cigarettes. Senator Hassan went on to lay out the stakes of this crisis, “Millions of children are nicotine dependent because of e-cigarettes, and the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that only four percent of those kids are going to successfully quit. That is a stunning statistic.”  


Senator Hassan then pressed Director Zeller on whether or not Juul, the nation’s largest e-cigarette company, has been meeting with the FDA on policies related to their product.


“When the flavor ban was announced in September, Juul publicly stated that it would not lobby officials or attempt to influence the policy as it was developed. However, Juul executives recently told my staff that they have had ‘a number of conversations with FDA’ since the September announcement. Were you aware of – or part of – any of these conversations, and if so, what was discussed?”


Director Zeller said he was “unaware of any policy-related discussions between Juul and FDA.”


Senator Hassan went on to question Director Zeller about how the FDA plans to ban e-cigarette flavors that are most popular among young people given the concern that Juul could simply rename the flavor to skirt around the ban.


When Mr. Zeller could not provide a straightforward answer, Senator Hassan once again laid out the stakes of this crisis, “What you are hearing from everybody up here is that we have children who are getting hooked on these products. There has been a lot of delay—we are looking for a strategy and we are looking for you guys to move through your deliberations. You’ve had plenty of time already – and kids and people, Americans all over this country, are being hurt and they are addicted.”


Senator Hassan continued, “When the American Academy of Pediatrics tells me that only four percent of the kids who are now addicted to nicotine are going to be able to quit, your deliberative process needs to be as fast and strategic as it can be.”


In October, Senator Hassan joined Senator Jeanne Shaheen and other colleagues in urging the FDA to finalize its promised compliance policy and clear the market of unauthorized, flavored e-cigarette products, including mint and menthol flavors. Earlier that month, Senator Hassan, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and other Senators called on Juul to remove forced arbitration and other anti-consumer provisions from its terms and conditions for online sales. Forced arbitration clauses restrict Americans’ access to justice by stripping consumers and workers of their right to go to court.