Debbie Wasserman Schultz Looks to Crack Down on Teens Using E-Cigarettes

A South Florida congresswoman is looking to crack down on what her office is calling the “alarming rise in e-cigarette use among youth.”

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., paired up with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Ct., to showcase the “Preventing Opportunities for Teen E-Cigarette and Tobacco Addiction (PROTECT) Act.”

“More than 3.6 million youth report using e-cigarettes, including 1 in 5 high school students, and 1 in 20 middle school students, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. The rate of e-cigarette use among teens has grown dramatically with up to 37 percent of 12th graders reporting use in the past year, compared to 28 percent in 2017,” the congresswoman’s office noted. “This dramatic surge has alarmed public health officials, leading the U.S. Surgeon General to call the rise an ‘epidemic.’”

The bill would send $100 million annually over a five year period for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to continue research and offer states and local governments grants to help ensure teens aren’t using e-cigarettes.

“E-cigarette companies are explicitly targeting young people through their marketing and product design, but what they’re really selling is a nicotine addiction and other risks associated with vaping.” Wasserman Schultz said on Friday. “As the mother of three teenagers, I know that we cannot wait to address this epidemic. While the FDA has moved to combat the sale of e-cigarettes to youth, more work needs to be done to protect young people from the predatory practices of the tobacco industry.”

“JUUL and e-cigarette manufacturers are aggressively targeting our nation’s youth, hooking yet another generation on deadly products. Everywhere I go in Connecticut, I hear about the need for more resources to combat and stop this growing epidemic—and for the Administration to get serious. This bill would create a CDC program dedicated to informing students, parents, educators, community organizations and local leaders about the harms of e-cigarettes,” Blumenthal said. “By giving those on the frontlines of this fight the tools to prevent teen e-cigarette addiction, we can stop Big Tobacco from stealing the health and well-being of our teens.”

The bill has the support of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Lung Association, the Oncology Nursing Society, the National Medical Association and several other groups.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee last week. So far, Wasserman Schultz has brought in more than 10 cosponsors including Florida Democrat U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings.