Senator urges FDA to take action in wake of e-cigarette illnesses

CHICAGO, Ill. (WMAQ) – An Illinois senator is demanding the FDA regulate e-cigarettes, asking the head of the agency resign if he doesn’t take action.

Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to use the power Congress gave it to oversee tobacco products and regulate vaping and e-cigarette products targeted to youth with candy-like flavors, and devices resembling flash drives.

“I’ve said to acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless that he has 10 days from last Friday do something significant or he should resign,” Sen. Durbin stated. “His job is to protect the public health. And if he isn’t going to do it step out of the way and let someone else do it.”

Durbin’s demand comes with the word of five deaths linked to vaping and hundreds of illnesses.

The FDA is issuing a strong warning to “Juul Labs” Monday over the company’s outreach and marketing to students. Juul Labs has previously said it supports banning flavors targeted to children and restricting youth access to its menthol-based products.

Here is the Juul statement in its entirety, issued last week in response to Michigan’s governor ordering a state agency to ban some vaping products :

“While we have not reviewed the full [Michigan] decision we believe that strong and serious actions need to be taken around certain flavored products which is why we already stopped selling our non-tobacco/non-menthol based JUULpods to traditional retail stores, strongly support FDA’s draft guidance and are aggressively fighting against counterfeit and compatible flavored products which can appeal to youth and can be made with unknown ingredients, under unknown quality and manufacturing standards. There is simply no place for kid-appealing flavors in the marketplace. That is why we would also support an outright ban on such flavors, including those that mimic kid-specific candies, foods, and drinks.

“As for menthol-based products, including mint, we believe that to encourage adult smokers to switch from combustible use, the number one cause of preventable death in the world, they should be available at retail alongside tobacco and menthol-based cigarettes. To restrict youth access even in these stores, we strongly advocate for Tobacco 21 laws and are working with retailers to implement the strictest age-verification point-of-sale standards ever imposed for an age-restricted product at retail, far exceeding those in place for other tobacco products or for alcohol. Under JUUL Labs’ Retail Access Control Standards (RACS) program, a point-of-sale system at retail immediately locks when a JUUL product is scanned and remains locked until a retailer electronically scans a valid, of-age government-issued I.D. to verify both the age and the I.D. validity.”

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