Senator Chuck Schumer joined a chorus of local voices Friday to demand tighter restrictions around the sales and marketing of e-cigarettes. The New York Democrat and Senate Minority Leader visited Webster Schroeder High School and spoke with students and staff who say they’re concerned about the growing use of e-cigarettes among students.
According to the school, a quarter of students say they use an e-cigarette and Schumer thinks this is largely due to the marketing strategies and candy-like flavors vaping companies use. Holding up a cartridge of straw-melon flavored e-cigarette juice, he pointed out how much it looked like candy, saying: “These e-cigs are being marketed to entice young people. They try to make them look like they’re candy. Look at this one, straw-melon sourbelts. Is that candy or…? Nope. E-liquid.”
Schumer says he wants the Food and Drug Administration to step up and ban “candy”-like flavors and advertising on shows designed for youth.
“The studies are coming and many sya that when you smoke e-cigarettes, it’s a pathway to cigarettes. Some say its not but most say it is,” he said. “But the e-cigarette itself is harmful because it has so much nicotine and if the FDA can abolish it for cigarettes, the marketing to young kids, why can’t they do it for e-cigs? They have the power. We don’t need legislation.”
Schumer says he met with Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner of the FDA to urge them to look into the restrictions but says he’s unsure what the department’s next step will be.
School officials have been working hard to reduce vaping, but they say it’s an uphill battle. According to school administration, the e-cigarettes used by students are sometimes small or look like flash drives. The e-cigarettes don’t emit a lot of smoke so students can get away with doing it in the bathroom where there are no cameras.
“The biggest issue I believe is that the FDA first needs to get that information out,” said Sherry Johnson, Executive Director of Monroe County School Boards Association. “Parents and kids are making uninformed choices about what they’re putting in their lungs.”
She says like cigarettes, there needs to be a public information movement that corrects some of the misconceptions around vaping- like how healthy it is for example. Many people believe that since there is no tobacco, it's healthier but experts say the nicotine is still addictive and, over time, can reduce impulse control and increase the likelihood the user will suffer from mood disorders.
Janine Sanger, president of the Webster Health and Education Network says the vapes can also be used for more illicit drugs: “Many parents are unaware that these devices can be altered and other substances such as liquid THC can be inserted, allowing our youth to covertly vape the ingredient that is active in marijuana.”
Schumer says they don’t have to depend on legislation to hold vape companies accountable, which is much more slowmoving. Fully regulating e-cigarettes could take until 2022 but by asking the FDA to step in with bans and more information, Schumer says this could have a faster result.