WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As a congressional hearing on a string of lung illnesses linked to vaping continued Wednesday, lawmakers heard from state health officials urging stronger federal oversight.
Dr. Lee Norman, the head of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the vaping industry is being put on notice.
“They are big tobacco in disguise,” he told Nexstar in Washington. “There’s going to be a lot of changes in their industry if the proper regulations are put in place.”
Also Wednesday, leading e-cigarette company Juul announced the resignation of its CEO and plans to pull all advertisements in the U.S.
Norman joined a panel of experts calling on Congress to pass more regulations to ensure no other vaping company can market addictive products to kids.
“Vaping is effectively showing them the way to nicotine use and addiction,” he told lawmakers.
“It’s been heartbreaking to speak to families of young people who are otherwise healthy and are now barely clinging to life,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, testified.
She said that even though states like hers have issued a temporary ban on flavored vaping products, a national ban would be more effective.
“We need strong regulatory oversight over e-cigarettes,” she said.
Norman Sharpless, the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was pressed by lawmakers to take firmer action, but he insisted it was important not to harm adult smokers dependent on flavored products.
“We think that some small off-ramp to allow addicted adults smokers to transition from combustible cigarettes to another product is of public health value,” he said.
He said the agency is working to strike a balance, but that, at the direction of President Donald Trump, a nationwide ban on flavored vaping products would go into effect in coming weeks.