The public health crisis surrounding e-cigarettes drew congressional scrutiny on Tuesday, as the House of Representatives commenced hearings on the spate of illnesses and deaths that have been linked to vaping.
A House Oversight and Reform subcommittee heard testimony from Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said that the U.S. should look into banning flavored e-cigarettes as a means to protect young people.
“We are extremely concerned about flavors and the role that they play in hooking young people to a life of nicotine, and we really want to avoid another generation being addicted to nicotine, so addressing flavors directly is a good idea,” Schuchat said, as quoted by CNBC.
Schuchat was among several doctors to testify before the panel, joining Dr. Ngozi Ezike of the Illinois Department of Public Health and Dr. Albert Rizzo, the chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. In addition, the panel was also scheduled to hear from the parent of a teen who apparently fell seriously ill from vaping.
Tuesday’s hearing marked a continuation of a probe by the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s panel on consumer products—an investigation that was prompted by a lung illness that has affected hundreds of Americans that officials believe may be the result of e-cigarette use. Those cases have rattled doctors, and rocked a vaping industry that has grown enormously in recent years.
More than 500 people have been hospitalized by the vaping-related illness, while at least nine individuals have died. In response to those disquieting developments, state and federal governments, as well as private companies, are reconsidering e-cigarettes. The Trump administration announced earlier this month its intention to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, which are seen as particularly appealing to teenagers.
“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools, and communities,” Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement this month. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.”
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo likewise called for a ban on the flavored products. And Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has announced its plans to stop selling e-cigarettes all together.
In addition to Tuesday’s hearing, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is scheduled to hear testimony on Wednesday from the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.