Senators Fume Over 'Youth Vaping Epidemic,' Demand Flavored Vapes Off Shelves

Democrats in the Senate are calling for retailers to remove unauthorized flavored e-cigarettes from their shelves “immediately.”

In letters dated Wednesday to executives of 7-Eleven, Circle K, BP America, Pilot, Kwik Trip and more sent out Thursday, five influential Senate committee chairs warned that the widespread availability of unregulated nicotine vapes poses “a tremendous public health threat,” and selling the devices may constitute “widespread violations of federal law.”

The New York Times first reported on the letters.

The Food and Drug Administration and retailers “must do more to address the youth vaping epidemic and remove unauthorized vaping products from their shelves immediately,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told the Times.

Other signatories included Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

The FDA, which was granted authority over tobacco products in 2008, previously issued warnings about vapes from brands like Elf Bar, EBDesign and Funky Republic, which make disposable nicotine devices in a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors that critics say are designed to appeal to youth.

While thousands of vapes are available to consumers, the FDA has only approved 23 e-cigarette products and devices, all of which are only tobacco-flavored.

The senators’ letter went on to detail the risks of youth vaping, saying, “Today, millions of children use unauthorized e-cigarettes, risking nicotine addiction, respiratory illness, exacerbation of depression and anxiety, and many other harms.”

Though 10% of high school students surveyed by the Center for Disease Control in 2023 reported vaping within the last month, that number is down significantly from the 2019 peak of 28%.

Removing flavored vapes from the market could be key in tamping down young people’s nicotine use.

A study published in the Journal of Studies on Addiction and Drugs last summer revealed that 70% of its sample of 14 to 21-year-olds would quit if vaping if only tobacco-flavored vapes were available.