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DeLauro Holds Member Forum on the Youth Vaping Epidemic

December 10, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — (December 10, 2019) Today, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) held a Member Forum with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NAASP) to hear from those who are facing the youth vaping epidemic directly: students and principals. A full video of her testimony can be found here, and below are her opening remarks as delivered:

I really am so honored to be hosting this Member Forum along with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. And let me recognize Robert Motley, who is the President-Elect of the NASSP. He is also the Principal of Atholton High School. I want to thank you for the work you do in bringing together school principals nationally in an effort to protect our children.

I want to give a shout out to Pete Emerson, who at our last hearing he suggested that what was very important for us to do was to bring together principals and students who are literally on the front lines on this critical issue.

I’m honored, we expect colleagues will come in and out, I’m honored to welcome my colleague Jim Langevin from the great state of Rhode Island. We anticipate Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, Congresswoman Lois Frankel, and Congressman Steve Cohen. And all of the individuals that I have mentioned are tireless leaders on this issue, and I believe that together we are making progress.

So, it is particularly exciting to hear from school leaders and from students. And I again want to welcome Principals Adam Fine, of East Hampton High School and Brian Zahn, of Southampton High School.

I also want to recognize some very very special people and that’s our students who are here today. Samantha Rose Prince, Valeria Guevara, Olivia Grace Davis, and Lauren Heaney. Lauren had founded a local chapter of SADD, that’s Students Against Destructive Decisions. Lauren’s mother, Kristin. These young people, I want to just say, because I had the chance, Congressman Langevin, to chat with them earlier today, are extraordinary. And to quote you know what my grandkids would say, they’re awesome. They really really are awesome, and we need to follow their lead on this critically important issue.

I just want to say first and foremost so that you understand that the United States Congress is an institution that responds to external pressure. Lots of well-meaning people internally, but you, it responds to the external pressure. You are that external pressure. So, we need you to keep making your voices heard. And my mom taught me two things – one is do not take no for answer and never give up. So, the strength of your advocacy is critical for all of us.

There is a youth vaping epidemic that is causing a national public health crisis, linked to problems with brain development and respiratory health. Within the last decade, vaping has skyrocketed and eroded decades of progress to reduce teen smoking. In my home state of Connecticut, vaping e-cigarettes is the most common form of youth smoking used by high school students.

The cover of Time Magazine in September I think said it all with their quote, “The New American Addiction: How Juul Hooked Kids and Ignited A Public Health Crisis.” And, what they are inhaling is frightening.

Not too long ago I met with Dr. Pnina Weiss who is the medical director for Pediatric Pulmonary Function Laboratory at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital. She described the chemicals:

  • Ethylene glycol, which is used in anti-freeze.
  • Propylene glycol, used as toner for laser printers.
  • Vitamin E oil, implicated in the outbreak of lung illnesses;
  • Fine particles and carcinogens;
  • Fruit flavorings to attract youth;
  • And, then, Nicotine, the addictive chemical that hurts children’s brain development. One Juul pod has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

I am part of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus to End the Youth Vaping Epidemic and I chair the subcommittee that funds our public health agencies. I continue to urge Health and Human Service and the Food and Drug Administration to exercise their existing authority to regulate new tobacco product before they enter the market. That includes e-cigarettes. They have not done so. So now, there are thousands of e-cigarette products on the market with no independent, science-based assessment of either the long-term health risks, the safety of their ingredients, or the impact on youth tobacco initiation.

So, the Congress is acting. In late October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill, which I introduced. The Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act. It’s to close loopholes that exempt online e-cigarette retailers from federal age verification requirements.

It’s an important first step, we urge the Senate to take it up immediately. However, it is not a silver bullet. So, I’ve called for a ban on all e-cigarette products because I believe the health of our children and our communities is at risk.

Now, we are going to get to our panel, and I will turn it over to them to introduce themselves and to share their stories:

  • First, we have Principal Adam Fine of East Hampton High School.
  • Next, we have Samantha Rose Prince, Student at East Hampton High School.
  • Next, we have Olivia Grace Davis, who is right there, Student at East Hampton High School. Appreciate all the time you’ve taken to be with us today, all of you.
  • Next, Valeria Guevara, Student at East Hampton High School.
  • Thank you to Lauren Heaney, Student at Southampton High School and Founder of the local Chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions.
  • And also, is Principal Brian Zahn, of Southampton High school.
  • Last but not least, we have Robert Motley, the President-Elect of National Association of Secondary School Principals and a Principal himself.
  • So, I am just going to try to begin with you Principal Fine…