On Tuesday, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, wrote to Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about concerns that e-cigarettes pose a serious health risk to youth users and strain the healthcare system’s testing capabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Subcommittee started investigating what it calls “the youth vaping epidemic” on April 1, and subsequently asked the FDA to clear the market of all e-cigarettes “for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.” The FDA declined to do so, pointing to the need for more evidence demonstrating that vaping increases the risk of contracting the virus. According to Krishnamoorthi’s letter, “[t]hat failure to act cost us four months of harm to Americans that we cannot get back.”
Now, the Subcommittee Chairman is asking again, arguing that “[t]he science is now in: e-cigarette users are much likelier to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and to experience symptoms.” Krishnamoorthi cited a nationwide study by Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher of Stanford University published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
It found that adolescent vapers from ages 13 to 24 are more likely than non-vapers to be diagnosed with COVID-19. The study reportedly showed that “individuals who have vaped and smoked combustible cigarettes in the last 30 days (dual users) are nearly seven times more likely than non-users to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and almost five times more likely to experience symptoms.”
Furthermore, Krishnamoorthi’s letter argued, e-cigarette users are also stretching coronavirus testing resources. According to the letter’s recitation of the study, dual users are nine times more likely to have been tested for COVID-19 than non-users. Thus, the letter contended, “[i]f we reduce the number of vapers in America, we will reduce the unnecessary stress we are putting on our testing system.”
The letter then called for the FDA to ban e-cigarettes until the COVID-19 pandemic ceases, claiming that “[i]t is the only responsible path forward.” Krishnamoorthi wrote that he wanted a response from the FDA by August 18, and if it decides to move ahead with a ban, “a written description of the FDA’s plan to do so.”