SALT LAKE CITY — After suggesting the government recall e-cigarettes, Sen. Mitt Romney asked the Department of Health and Human Services in a letter Wednesday to act quickly on what he sees as a pervasive public health crisis.
“On the recall front there’s no reason not to move precipitously,” he said.
Romney’s letter comes following reports of a sixth death linked to e-cigarette use.
“I think anybody who is using vaping products would be wise to put them down and not use them until we can understand what the health impacts are,” the Utah Republican said in an interview. “But I think the FDA has to take action to remove those products from public sale until we understand why people are dying and getting extremely sick from them.”
The Trump administration appears poised to take some immediate action. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump met with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and acting FDA Commissioner Norman Sharpless on Wednesday morning about vaping.
Azar said the agency is preparing plans to pull all flavored e-cigarette products from the market in an effort to discourage youth vaping.
I think the addition of flavors, which are clearly aimed at children, is an indictment of the producers of these products.
Romney noted in his letter to Azar that the doctor leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s investigation of those incidents warned last week that consumers should consider not using e-cigarette while investigations are ongoing.
“In light of this guidance, and as investigations continue into reported illnesses and deaths, I urge the agencies to strongly consider whether these devices meet the recall classification standards of dangerous products that predictably cause serious or temporary health problems,” he wrote.
In a tweet Tuesday, Romney said the Food and Drug Administration should consider recalling e-cigarettes while it investigates the recent deaths and illnesses related to vaping. He said he’s concerned young people have been deceived into thinking e-cigarettes are safe.
Romney noted that a 20-year-old Provo man who nearly died from a vaping-related illness told the Washington Post that he was unaware of the potential dangers.
Vaping products haven’t gone through rigorous testing before they’re being sold, in many cases to kids, he said.
“I think the addition of flavors, which are clearly aimed at children, is an indictment of the producers of these products,” Romney said, adding some of the flavors should be prohibited. “They shouldn’t be marketed to kids.”
Michigan last week was the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes.
In his letter, Romney seeks “urgent responses” to a series of questions, including whether the FDA believes a recall is appropriate.
Given the health impact which has already been felt, I would hope it’s a matter of days.
“Given the health impact which has already been felt, I would hope it’s a matter of days,” Romney said.
Electronic devices pose unique challenges, including refill pods, pop culture ubiquity and virtual inability to be detected in schools, Romney wrote. As the FDA continues to warn the public about vaping risks, he asked the agency to report early progress or roadblocks to Congress so it could swiftly provide clearer legislative pathways, as needed.
The senator also urged the FDA and CDC to report to Congress and the public any new findings related to severe pulmonary disease, or other diseases, stemming from e-cigarette use.
Romney also encouraged the FDA to consider whether vaping devices should have refill pods or whether they should be limited to single-use. He said he has heard from constituents and seen across the country e-cigarette users modifying pods to include other illicit and harmful drugs.
In June, Romney and Sen. Mark Udall, D-N.M., introduced the Smoke-Free Schools Act of 2019 to ban e-cigarette use in educational and child care facilities. In April, he helped introduce the bipartisan Tobacco to 21 Act, legislation that would prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to anyone under age 21.