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Durbin calls for ‘immediate, decisive action’ to curb underage e-cigarette use, vaping

“The Food and Drug Administration remains, basically, undirected and misdirected when it comes to dealing with this threat,” Sen. Dick Durbin said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., holds up a vaping device during a news conference
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., holds up a vaping device during a news conference Monday at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Sam Charles/Sun-Times

After an Illinois resident died from a vaping-related illness, Sen. Dick Durbin on Monday slammed the leadership of the Food and Drug Administration over a lack of oversight when it comes to the sales and marketing of e-cigarette and nicotine vaping products to minors.

“Why are these highly addictive, dangerous products allowed to remain on the market? Because the Food and Drug Administration remains, basically, undirected and misdirected when it comes to dealing with this threat,” the Illinois Democrat said during a news conference at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Durbin said he sent a letter last week to acting FDA Commissioner Norman Sharpless demanding “immediate, decisive action” as it relates to regulating the sale of vaping products.

“FDA must immediately ban all e-cigarette flavors and devices that have not been approved for sale by the agency,” Durbin said. “Young, healthy people in Illinois and across the nation are getting sick and dying. The acting Food and Drug Administration commissioner has the power to do something. It’s time that he either does something or resigns.”

An Illinois man died last month after contracting a lung disease related to the use of a vaping device.

Durbin said Illinois has seen 42 confirmed cases of “vaping-related” lung diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said five people across the country have died as a result of lung diseases that were contracted as a result of e-cigarette use and vaping. The CDC is also examining another 450 possible cases of “severe respiratory illnesses” associated with e-cigarette and vaping use, Durbin said.

Dr. Maria Rahmandar, medical director of the substance use and prevention program at Lurie, said parents of teens should be direct with their children and discourage vaping use as much as possible.

“I would encourage clear, consistent discussion of values around substance use in your house and discourage use,” Rahmandar said. “Love your teens, support them, but really send the message that no substance abuse should happen in my house.”