Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Murkowski queries officials from CDC, FDA about youth vaping

At a Wednesday morning hearing, Sen. Lisa Murkowski addressed some of her concerns regarding rising e-cigarette use among youths and the outbreak of vaping-associated pulmonary illness,

The Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions’ hearing, “Examining the Response to Lung Illnesses and Rising Youth Electronic Cigarette Use,” addressed vaping and e-cigarette use in the United States.

In Alaska, there has not been a confirmed case of vaping-associated pulmonary illness. However, as of its last update, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,051 cases of e-cigarette, or vaping, lung injury from the other 49 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands.

Murkowski, R-Alaska, worked with Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, on the Stopping Appealing Flavors in E-Cigarettes for Kids Act, which included restricting e-cigarette flavors and banning cigar flavorings altogether.

Murkowski noted she is frustrated that kids can see the products advertised as helping with cessation.

“So if it can be used to get me off nicotine, then surely it can’t be that bad for me even if there is nicotine in it. So when we’re talking about consistent messages to kids, I think you have got to be pretty up front and pretty direct. This harms you; this addicts you; this could ultimately kill you,” she said. “If it makes it taste that much better, they’re going to be attracted to it.”

Murkowski also questioned Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, and Mitch Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products with the Food and Drug Administration, who testified during the hearing.

“Do you agree that even if the findings of the investigation do not implicate solely nicotine that this should not be a distraction from the public health epidemic that we are facing, which is this drastic rise in addiction to nicotine and e-cigarettes?” she asked.

Schuchat said she agrees there are two ongoing epidemics.

“One is an outbreak of lung injury following e-cigarette or vaping product use that’s pointing to THC containing cartridges in the vast majority,” she said. “A second is this incredible, skyrocketing rate of youth e-cigarette use, and we know that the brain continues to develop until age 25 and nicotine is harmful for the developing brain, and the risk of these individuals being long-term addicted or going on to be addicted to other substances is very high — two very, very disturbing emergencies.”

Zeller also noted his agreement that the issues are separate.

“Kids should not be using any tobacco product, inhaling any of the stuff into their lungs,” he said. “Everything that you’re calling for in terms of the messaging directly to kids is exactly what we’re doing in our paid advertising: talking directly to them about the presence of nicotine and that it can be addictive, talking directly to them about the presence of harmful compounds in the aerosol to try to break through what we call that cost-free mentality, completely separate and apart from wherever the investigation takes us on the lung illnesses.”

Murkowski mentioned the lack of cases in Alaska, noting that retail marijuana is tested by state laboratories.

“So is the CDC providing any information to state regulatory bodies, whether it is Alaska or other states that have legalized, on testing these products for these compounds that are a concern? And then are there any barriers preventing federal officials from working with our state marijuana labs on these topics?” she asked.

Schuchat said the CDC is in close contact with state health departments and their laboratories, holding frequent calls and providing guidance.

“There are some challenges with shipment of specimens because of the scheduling of drugs,” Schuchat said.

She said she believes this may be delaying testing but not stopping it. Zeller added that it is up to the states to send samples to the FDA for testing, and the results are sent back to the states.

“So, there really has been no issue in getting the samples to us and at least having us begin to do the chemistry work to be able to report back to them on a state-by-state basis,” he said. “It’s like first in, first out. The first state that came to us is the first state that will get the results.”

By:  Kyrie Long
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

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