Leading Capitol Hill advocate against vaping urges Indian-Americans to support effort

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Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi officiating as Speaker of the US House, pro tempore, April 1. (Photo: courtesy Rep. Krishnamoorthi)

Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, had been the leading advocate on Capitol Hill, against what he sees as a youth vaping “epidemic” in the country.

Krishnamoorthi launched an investigation into what he calls “fraudulent marketing practices” of popular e-cigarette maker, JUUL Labs, Inc. earlier this year.

“As a parent of three children, fixing this public health crisis is personal,” Rep. Krishnamoorthi told News India Times via email.

“My role in Congress as the Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy has allowed me to investigate the practices of bad actors in the e-cigarette industry and propose legislative reforms to curb the rise of youth vaping,” he added.

“I will continue to prioritize ending this epidemic and appreciate the support of the Indian-American community in this effort,” the Congressman said.

According to a press release from his office, Rep. Krishnamoorthi’s investigation which began back in June, was instrumental in getting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a warning letter to JUUL declaring the company’s marketing practices illegal.

Krishnamoorthi has also launched a bipartisan, bicameral congressional caucus to end this epidemic.

More than 25 health and professional organizations, including the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and the American Academy of Pediatrics, support this effort, according to the press release.

This Sept. 24, the Subcommittee held the first congressional hearing since the outbreak of mysterious illnesses and deaths related to vaping,  with the Centers for Disease Control. The next day, JUUL Labs, Inc. CEO Ken Burns stepped down and the company announced it will halt all television, print, radio, and digital advertising and marketing, the press release noted.

On Sept. 25, Krishnamoorthi called on four e-cigarette companies to immediately cease all television, radio, print, and digital advertising in the United States. He followed up with a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Oct. 1, urging the agency to increase support for research into the long-term health effects of electronic cigarette usage.

According to data on youth e-cigarette use provided by Rep. Krishnamoorthi’s office, roughly 27 percent of high school students report using e-cigarettes (also called vaping), equaling a 135 percent increase in the last two years.

The Congressman contends this “dramatic spike” in youth vaping has been fueled by new technology that allows manufacturers to increase the amount of addictive nicotine in e-cigarettes while masking nicotine’s harsh taste.

Prior to 2016, most ecigarettes contained between 10 and 20 milligrams per milliliter of nicotine. E-cigarettes today, commonly referred to “fourth generation e-cigarette devices” by the CDC, are significantly more addictive than the e-cigarettes of years past.

Quoting the Centers for Disease Control, Rep. Krishnamoorthi notes that since the brain continues to develop until age 25, nicotine exposure prior to that age can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.

Rep. Krishnamoorthi’s bill, H.R. 4624 (Ending Nicotine Dependence from Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Act of 2019) introduced Oct. 8, seeks to ensure that e-cigarette e-liquids, solutions of nicotine and other chemical compounds that are heated and inhaled by ecigarette users, contain no more than 20 milligrams per milliliter of nicotine; that the FDA be allowed to lower the cap on nicotine concentration in e-liquids to a minimally addictive or non-addictive level below 20 milligrams per milliliter; that the FDA be encouraged to successfully replicate international efforts to prevent youth from using e-cigarettes, and to examine other ways to regulate the design and function of e-cigarettes to be less appealing to youth.

Bill H.R. 4624 was referred the same day to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The Congressman has been on national news channels for his advocacy on ecigarettes. In a letter to the White House Oct. 31, Rep. Krishnamoorthi urged President Trump to move on his intention declared six weeks ago, to ban flavored ecigarette products. “What I fear is that members of the industry are lobbying against the rule,” or limit it with exclusions, Krishnmoorthi said in an interview with CNBC.

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