On May 14, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer visited Fayetteville-Manlius High School to call upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to immediately ban e-cigarette flavors that can appeal to teens and young adults.
Health and education officials have warned that underage usage of e-cigarettes, which are marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, is increasing. Sen. Schumer is urging the FDA to move faster to beat back the e-cigarette addiction trend among young people by banning the kid-friendly flavors and marketing attempts that make the chemically-laced nicotine look like an innocent food product.
Local school district administrators, including F-M Superintendent Dr. Craig Tice and F-M High School Principal Dr. Ray Kilmer, joined Sen. Schumer for the press conference, which was held in front of health advocates, board of education members, students and members of the media.
“The craze among kids for e-cig flavors that resemble whipped cream, candy and cookies is not only a bad trend, but it is a recipe for disaster that is fueling an outright addiction that appears to be getting worse, not better,” Schumer said. “Central New York kids are in a flavor trap and it’s becoming a real epidemic now.”
One variation of the e-cigarette, JUUL, is a market leader with the youth demographic. It looks identical to a USB flash drive and can be charged using a laptop. The JUUL’s e-liquid pods contain about as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs, and feature flavors such as “cool mint” and “fruit medley.” The pods are about $4 each – nearly half the cost of a pack of cigarettes – and contain cancer-causing formaldehyde at levels up to 15 times more than cigarettes, according to a study published in New England Journal of Medicine.
“We are disturbed that these types of devices are marketed to young people across the country – including here in the Central New York community,” Dr. Kilmer said. “As educators and parents, we are concerned about the addictive nature of these devices and the potential health risks associated with them. We are hopeful that there will be some regulation instituted that will limit our students’ access to these products.”
Schumer said the current law the FDA should use to reign in e-cigs and curtail marketing to youth begins with the Tobacco Control Act, which provides the FDA with authority over e-cigarettes.
“A slow-moving FDA process to fully regulate e-cigs could allow flavored e-cigarettes to remain on the market until at least 2022,” he said.
In January, F-M middle and high school administrators notified parents and guardians through a letter about the growing trend of electronic cigarettes and encouraged parents to discuss the topic, including its potential health risks, with their children.