February 13, 2023

Senator Warren Joins Bipartisan Group Of Senators to Urge HHS to Protect Children’s Health and End FDA E-Cigarette Regulation Delays

FDA Is Years Late with E-Cigarette Rules, Fueling “Youth Vaping Epidemic”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C.– U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in sending a bipartisan letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra condemning the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) delays to regulate e-cigarettes, the agency’s failure to enforce the law and take action against companies marketing illegal vaping products, and the harm to children’s health from the agency’s inaction.  

“For nearly a decade, the agency has neglected its duty under the law to regulate e-cigarettes, jeopardizing the health of millions of children. Now, after yet another delay in FDA’s efforts to regulate the e-cigarette marketplace, it is now clear to us that FDA is adrift and lives are at risk,” wrote the senators. “Each day that FDA fails to enforce against products illegally on the market, more children pick up vaping. We need an FDA that stands on the side of public health and our children, rather than becoming mired in delays or cowering to Big Tobacco’s lawyers.” 

The FDA is currently 16 months past a court-ordered deadline to finish reviewing e-cigarette applications. The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ordered FDA to finish reviewing e-cigarette applications by September 9, 2021, yet the agency has only completed reviews of about half of those e-cigarettes—leaving dangerous, kid-friendly flavored e-cigarettes available on store shelves to hook children. Approximately one million children are at risk of newly picking up vaping in the intervening time that FDA misses the court order.

The letter follows a scathing independent report from the Reagan-Udall Foundation, which emphasized that the FDA’s “failure to take timely enforcement action jeopardizes public health and undermines creditability and effectiveness in tobacco product regulation.” 

In addition to Senators Warren and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the letter was signed by Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Senator Warren has led the fight alongside her colleagues to hold regulators accountable and combat the growing public health crisis of vaping-related illnesses and youth tobacco use: 

  • In August 2021, Senators Warren and Blumenthal sent a letter to FDA and the Federal Trade Commission calling out Juul Labs’ purchase of an entire issue of a medical journal to publish industry-funded studies in advance of the September 9, 2021 deadline.
  • In December 2020, Senator Warren joined her colleagues in writing letters to British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Trade Commission to question tobacco companies’ exploitative e-cigarette advertisements. 
  • In October 2019, Senator Warren wrote a letter urging HHS to take long-overdue steps to stop the youth e-cigarette epidemic.
  • In October 2019, Senator Warren wrote to JUUL Labs and Altria regarding their companies' role in fueling the youth vaping epidemic and probing the recent corporate marriage of JUUL--the most popular e-cigarette product among children-- with Altria, a large manufacturer of traditional tobacco products, including Marlboro cigarettes and Black & Mild cigars.
  • In September 2019, Senator Warren called on companies such as eBay, Alibaba, and Craigslist to crack down on listings for e-cigarettes and vaping products on their marketplace that provide youth an avenue to purchase these items without any age verification.
  • In September 2019, Senator Warren demanded answers from the heads of the FDA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on their actions to address the health impacts of e-cigarette products, as illnesses and even deaths are increasingly linked to vaping.
  • In September 2019, Senator Warren requested that Senate Appropriators include a $100 million investment in the final, bipartisan appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020 to boost public health data infrastructure as the nation's public health system struggles to adequately monitor and address  the ongoing outbreak of vaping-related illnesses.
  • In June 2019, Senator Warren sent a letter to Acting FDA Commissioner Norman Sharpless recognizing the ten-year anniversary of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act -- legislation that gave FDA sweeping authority to regulate the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of all tobacco products -- and urging the FDA to act quickly and decisively to protect kids from dangerous tobacco products.
  • In April 2019, Senator Warren wrote to the FDA regarding reports that e-cigarette use may be correlated to the occurrence of seizures, and urging the agency to swiftly conduct a public health review of e-cigarettes.
  • In March 2019, Senator Warren wrote a letter urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move immediately and aggressively to review e-cigarette products and take action to protect children and the public's health.