By Personal Injury Attorney Jacob Kimball of Springs Law Group
Democrat Diana DeGette of California wants answers from the vaping industry. She says that no one knows how vaping affects the health of users and that, as a result, consumers are left in the dark. Meanwhile, vape companies rake in billions of dollars and have attracted a new generation of youths into a potentially lifelong addiction to nicotine.
This hearing is seen as one of Congress’ latest attempts in probing the growing vaping market. Congress’s prior examinations into the market include several vaping-related hearings last year as well as raising the federal minimum age for vaping to 21.
DeGette is the chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee. She has called to testify executives from five of the nation’s largest e-cigarette companies, which represent 97 percent of the country’s $19.3 billion vaping industry. These five companies include Juul, Logic, NJOY, Fontem, and Reynolds American, many of which have been the subject of prior congressional investigations regarding their marketing and business practices potentially targeting young people.
Thousands of individuals – many of them children and young adults – suffered serious personal injuries last year during a rash of vape-related illnesses, which caused dozens of deaths. The subcommittee is seeking information about how the companies’ marketing efforts have played a role in the teen vaping epidemic, as well as what known health risks their products may pose to users.
In response to this crisis, the Trump Administration (administration) released a new policy that at least temporarily banned some of the most popular vape pod-based flavors – fruit and mint – but leaving both tobacco and menthol flavors unregulated. However, there is concern that mint simply may be relabeled as menthol in some cases.
Further, many vape products remain on the market: disposable vape pens, open tank devices, and e-liquids available in vape shops. In essence, says Matt Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the administration’s rule leaves a gaping hole through which vulnerable populations can still access vape products. As a result, there has been a growing concern that young people will resort to using other disposable and cartridge-based products as a way to find similar sweet flavors.
Meredith Berkman of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes says that kids continue to use disposable vape products in sweet flavors that are thought to lure children into the market. She emphasizes the risk of personal injury to adolescents newly hooked on a nicotine product with poorly understood health impacts.
Federal data shows that middle and high school students are particularly at risk of becoming addicted to vaping and the nicotine it provides. Over the course of 30 days, more than five million of these young people admit to using vape products at least once.
Starting in May of 2020, the administration’s new rule requires companies to get approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration to sell their vape products and to prove that they provide a public health benefit. However, critics fear that the argument used to sell vaping in the first place, i.e., that it’s healthier than smoking cigarettes, may allow these products back on the market.
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