PhotoThe anti-vaping drumbeat is getting louder in Washington, as four members of the U.S. Senate have asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to immediately ban the most popular kind of e-cigarette products from the market.

The senators -- Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) -- cite the mysterious lung ailments that have been linked to e-cigarette use. In a letter to Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless, the lawmakers call for the immediate removal of all pod- and cartridge-based e-cigarettes from the market, unless or until they can prove that they benefit the public health.

The proposal is a sharp escalation of the steps currently under consideration. The FDA last week launched a criminal investigation into the 530 cases of lung illnesses, including eight deaths. The Trump administration is also reportedly considering a ban on flavored e-cigarette products.

Lawmakers fault the FDA

In their letter, the senators denounce what they say has been a lack of action from the FDA when it comes to e-cigarette products. 

“The proliferation of cartridge-based e-cigarettes—and their ever-increasing popularity with children—is primarily due to the FDA’s years-long refusal to regulate any e-cigarette devices or impose common-sense design standards preventing against adulteration, despite having the authority to do so,” they said. “Make no mistake: none of the e-cigarettes, including cartridge-based e-cigarettes, currently on the market have gone through the FDA approval process.  They have not demonstrated that they are safe and effective for helping adults quit smoking cigarettes.”

The lawmakers point to reports of the increasing use of e-cigarettes by people under the age of 18. They contend that five million children are now vaping, including one in four high school students.

In a recent one-year period, 2017 to 2018, the lawmakers say America saw a 78 percent increase in the number of high school students using e-cigarettes and a 48 percent increase in the number of middle school children using the products. 

The senators draw a distinction between cartridge-based systems and the open tank e-cigarettes that are typically sold in vape shops. They say cartridge-based products are often sold in convenience stores and other outlets where under-age consumers have freer access.

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