Lawmakers are seizing on the outbreak of a vaping-related illness to push for more aggressive regulation of the young but fast-growing e-cigarette industry.

Democrats and increasing numbers of Republicans want age restrictions, flavor bans, and marketing crackdowns. They want the FDA to move faster to investigate and regulate e-cigarettes, touted by the industry as a way to reduce harm from traditional cigarette smoking but which has also led to what the FDA calls an “epidemic” of youth vaping of nicotine.

Health authorities haven’t fully untangled what’s causing the respiratory disease, which has potentially affected more than 450 and killed six. Public health officials across 33 states have linked many of the cases to vaped forms of marijuana and its component CBD — both of which are in legal but in regulatory limbo. Counterfeit or black market nicotine vapes may also have a role — and legal vapes haven’t been totally ruled out, but they aren’t dominating the public health investigation into the illness.

Yet anti-tobacco lawmakers and children’s health advocates are using the moment to demand more regulation of e-cigarettes, including industry powerhouse Juul. They want to go further than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bill, which would raise the age for buying all tobacco to 21. And they want consistent national standards, not a state-by-state patchwork as some areas of the country plow ahead on flavor bans.

McConnell, who is pushing the bill alongside Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine, hasn’t spoken about his bill in public in months, and his office Tuesday referred to his earlier statements about doing “everything we can to keep these harmful products out of high schools and out of youth culture.”

The McConnell-Kaine bill is part of a broader health care cost bill, including drug prices and “surprise” medical bills, that’s passed the Senate HELP committee but does not appear likely to come to the floor quickly.

Read full article here.

Sarah Owermohle and Rachel Roubein – Politico – September 10, 2019.

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