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SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney introduced a bill Thursday to ban flavored e-cigarettes and tax vaping products like regular cigarettes to fund a public awareness campaign about the dangers of vaping.
Also Thursday, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, joined the bipartisan Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic.
Romney and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., are co-sponsoring the bipartisan Ending New Nicotine Dependencies Act, which would regulate the vaping industry, prohibit non-tobacco flavors and ensure e-cigarettes are tamper-proof.
“With nearly a quarter of high school students vaping regularly, we must take decisive action to prevent a new generation from addiction and serious health risks,” Romney said in a statement. “Let’s begin by passing legislation which ensures that non-tobacco flavored vaping products are removed from the market and prevents vaping devices from being adulterated with hazardous substances.”
The legislation comes on the heels of the Trump administration last week announcing plans to remove flavored vaping products from the market.
Also last week, Romney called on the Food and Drug Administration to consider a recall of e-cigarettes in the wake of an increasing number of illnesses and deaths linked to the devices. He then met with the FDA to discuss the administration’s proposed flavor ban.
Stewart attended a news conference in Washington, D.C., to launch the youth vaping caucus led by Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and Peter King, R-N.Y., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Stewart said he grew up in an era when cigarette smoking was uncool — it wasn’t shown in movies, sports figures weren’t seen doing it and advertising changed.
“We’ve lost all of that with this campaign toward addicting our children,” he said. High school students today, he said, consider it “edgy and hip” to pull out their vaping devices in front of their friends.
“We’ve got to change it,” Stewart said.
Stewart and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., introduced a bill in July that would prohibit e-cigarettes in the nation’s schools and child care centers.
Vaping companies have hooked millions of children on nicotine using e-cigarette flavors like “gummy bear,” “Scooby Snacks,” and “strawberries and cream,” creating “massive” health consequences for the next generation, Merkley said.
“We need to get these flavors off the market,” he said. “In addition, refillable cartridges are an invitation to hazardous concoctions, and we need to get them off the market too.”
Nearly 25% of high schoolers are vaping regularly. This is unacceptable. @SenJeffMerkley & I are teaming up on legislation that:— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) September 19, 2019
✔️Bans e-cigarettes from containing non-tobacco flavors
✔️Requires cartridges to be tamper-proof
✔️Applies existing tobacco excise tax to e-cigarettes pic.twitter.com/EfLYRPjPDI
Specifically, the bill Merkley and Romney proposed would require standards on the design of e-cigarettes and provide guidelines for manufacturers to follow them. It would also monitor the public health risks associated with use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The bill would apply existing tobacco tax to e-cigarettes and direct the Department of Health and Human Services to launch a public awareness campaign about the health risks of vaping.
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the issue needs bold, urgent action. The bill properly focuses on addressing both the lung disease issues and the epidemic of youth vaping, he said.
University of Utah Health also supports the making of tamper-proof e-cigarettes and eliminating flavors, said CEO Michael Good. Vaping, he said, is especially dangerous for children due to risks of addiction and lung disease.