Ten years ago, we won a major victory against Big Tobacco. In 2009, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law, for the first time giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to oversee all tobacco products. The FDA hit the ground running by establishing the Center for Tobacco Products, which oversees the implementation of the law. But since then, FDA has failed to act, and our country has experienced a new threat in the form of e-cigarettes, also known as vaping.
The American Lung Association has, for the last 18 years, released our "State of Tobacco Control" report which tracks the progress that the state and federal governments have made. Though there's been tremendous strides in reducing tobacco use, the FDA has received an "F" grade for many years because it has not fully implemented the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and has failed to address the rise of dangerous but flashy e-cigarettes and their growing popularity among teens.
For decades, the tobacco industry has used flavored products, including cigarettes, to target youth, so it's not surprising that the release of flavored "vapes" is attracting teen attention. Due to FDA's failure to act, tobacco companies have gotten creative with their strategies, releasing fruit and candy flavors, and creating e-cigarette designs that resemble a USB drive, making them easy to conceal.
The impact has been overwhelming. Last year alone vaping among high schoolers increased by a whopping 78 percent, and an equally staggering 48 percent among middle schoolers. Meaning that, overall, 1.5 million additional children have begun to use e-cigarettes in the past year. What could have been a tobacco-free generation is now plagued by JUULs, vapes, and other e-cigarette devices. Not surprisingly, studies suggest that teens who use these products have a much higher likelihood to become cigarette smokers.
In hopes of combatting the growing problem, in March 2018, the Lung Association sued the FDA with several partner organizations to compel it to follow the Tobacco Control Act and complete the review of all e-cigarettes, cigars and other newly regulated tobacco products. In May, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Lung Association and our partners.
Meaningful action by the FDA is long overdue. Here is a blueprint of how FDA must attack the tobacco epidemic:
- Require manufacturers to submit product applications and then begin a product by product review of the ingredients and the impact on the public health of all products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah and other products.
- Remove ALL flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes from the marketplace.
- Issue product standards to reduce the toxicity, addictiveness and/or appeal of cigarettes and other tobacco products. This could include reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes or reducing nitrosamines in all smokeless tobacco products.
- Require large, graphic cigarette warning labels that cover the top 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs.
So today, to commemorate the Tobacco Control Act signing, we ask you to help us be heard. Let's protect our health—and our nation's youth from tobacco products by raising our voice. Add your name to our petition telling the FDA to prohibit all flavored tobacco products—including e-cigarettes.
Have You Talked to Your Kids about Vaping?
"The Vape Talk" is an important conversation every parent needs to have with their child. The Lung Association's new initiative gives you the tools to make sure that your children understand the risks of e-cigarettes. Learn more and download the conversation guide.
Blog last updated: April 13, 2020