As the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, and the husband of a dedicated pediatrician, I am deeply committed to the health and well-being of our citizens, particularly our youth. The rise of vaping, especially among our young people, is a public health concern that demands our immediate attention and action.
In recent years, vaping has exploded in popularity. This trend has forced governments at all levels to reevaluate their regulatory frameworks to ensure the safety of these products and to prevent them from falling into the hands of our children. In Columbia, we have taken this issue seriously and have made significant strides in addressing it.
While these local efforts are crucial, they are not enough. We need the federal government to step up and help us protect our citizens from dangerous and illicit products that are flooding our markets. The FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, empowered by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, is tasked with administering federal tobacco and nicotine regulatory programs. However, it is failing in its duty.
During a conference in McKinney, Texas, I was shown an entire row of vape products that many believe are safe. However, these products are manufactured in China and shipped to the U.S. illegally. Despite the FDA’s guidelines designed to keep such illicit products out of stores, they are still finding their way into the hands of consumers, including our youth.
These illegal vape products pose a significant risk to our lungs and overall health. They often have appealing names and are clearly marketed towards underage consumers. The FDA has failed to enforce its own regulations as they relate to electronic nicotine delivery systems or ENDS. Despite issuing new guidelines in 2020 designed to keep illicit products that lack approval out of stores, more underage people are using disposable or single-use ENDS products than ever before.
Reuters has reported that at least 20 brands from China continue to sell disposable e-cigarettes in the U.S. Consumers spent over $2 billion on disposable e-cigarettes over the past year. Despite being aware of the illicit goods flooding the market, the FDA has not used its powers to crack down on Chinese vape companies that ignore its regulations. In a recent AP News article by Matthew Perrone, it was reported that the number of different electronic cigarette devices sold in the U.S. has nearly tripled to over 9,000 since 2020, largely due to a wave of unauthorized disposable vapes from China. These products, often in sweet and fruity flavors, are a favorite among teenagers.
Congress can no longer stand by as the FDA allows Chinese vape manufacturers to flood U.S. markets with illicit ENDS products. South Carolina’s own Congressman Jeff Duncan and his colleagues should enhance congressional oversight of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products and force the agency to do its job so that South Carolina’s efforts to protect consumers and increase tobacco harm reduction don’t go up in smoke.
In Columbia, we are doing our part to protect our citizens and reduce the harm caused by tobacco. We need the federal government to do the same. The health of our citizens, especially our youth, is at stake. We must act now to ensure a healthier future for them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Mayor Daniel Rickenmann was elected mayor of Columbia in 2021 – campaigning on a platform of making the city a better place to live, work, and play. Since taking office, he has worked tirelessly to improve city services and make Columbia’s environment more business friendly.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.