Schumer says federal e-cigarette rules must stop sale of sweet, fruity flavors

The U.S. Senate minority leader wants such products off the market entirely.

Sen. Charles Schumer is warning the Federal Drug Administration that “vanilla” rules for the sale of e-cigarettes will ultimately fail to stop companies from marketing flavored products.

“Here’s the great worry,” Schumer, the U.S. Senate minority leader, told amNewYork on Sunday. “When the industry pressures the administration, that will make the loopholes too big. In practice, these loopholes always have a way of expanding.”  

President Donald Trump proposed a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes earlier this month in the wake of reports of vaping-related deaths and illness from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The FDA announced on Sept. 11 that it would soon release plans for removing flavored e-cigarette products from stores. All e-cigarette companies have until May 2020 to apply for certification. They will need to meet yet-to-be-determined ingredient and packaging standards before returning to the market.

The application process will “ensure that those [products] authorized for marketing are appropriate for the protection of public health,” Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless stated Friday. 

But Schumer said sweet and fruity flavors such as bubble gum, cookies and cream, and gummy bear get teens hooked on nicotine and should simply be off the market.

“Those flavors shouldn’t be on shelves, and so the federal ban needs to be framed around that premise or it won’t be as effective, and it will easily circumvent local bans that states are proposing and passing,” said Schumer. 

Enforcement of a separate, emergency New York ban on flavored e-cigarettes and vaping liquids, with the exception of tobacco and menthol flavors, is slated to begin Oct. 4. 

American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley has argued that “fruit and sweet flavors help adult smokers disconnect from the taste of smoking,” and that the New York ban will only “push people to black and gray markets.”

The CDC recently linked seven deaths to vaping and 530 confirmed or probable lung illnesses. Their experts have yet to trace the illness to a specific brand or product. 

Emma Whitford