Rep. Wasserman Schultz, Sen. Blumenthal Introduce Preventing Opportunities for Teen E-Cigarette and Tobacco Addiction (PROTECT) Act

The PROTECT Act authorizes $100 million in funding each year for five years for a proactive Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiative to address this alarming trend.

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) announced the introduction of the bicameral Preventing Opportunities for Teen E-Cigarette and Tobacco Addiction (PROTECT) Act to address the alarming rise in e-cigarette use among youth.

More than 3.6 million youth report using e-cigarettes, including 1 in 5 high school students, and 1 in 20 middle school students, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. The rate of e-cigarette use among teens has grown dramatically with up to 37 percent of 12th graders reporting use in the past year, compared to 28 percent in 2017. This dramatic surge has alarmed public health officials, leading the U.S. Surgeon General to call the rise an “epidemic.” 

The PROTECT Act authorizes $100 million in funding each year for five years for a proactive Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiative to address this alarming trend through funding for enhanced research, grants for states and localities to address this issue in their communities, the development of evidence-based policies, and other critical activities to combat the rise in e-cigarette use among youth.

“E-cigarette companies are explicitly targeting young people through their marketing and product design, but what they’re really selling is a nicotine addiction and other risks associated with vaping.” Wasserman Schultz said. “As the mother of three teenagers, I know that we cannot wait to address this epidemic. While the FDA has moved to combat the sale of e-cigarettes to youth, more work needs to be done to protect young people from the predatory practices of the tobacco industry.”

“JUUL and e-cigarette manufacturers are aggressively targeting our nation’s youth, hooking yet another generation on deadly products. Everywhere I go in Connecticut, I hear about the need for more resources to combat and stop this growing epidemic—and for the Administration to get serious. This bill would create a CDC program dedicated to informing students, parents, educators, community organizations and local leaders about the harms of e-cigarettes,” Blumenthal said. “By giving those on the frontlines of this fight the tools to prevent teen e-cigarette addiction, we can stop Big Tobacco from stealing the health and well-being of our teens.”

“The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports the PROTECT Act and its recognition that CDC has a critical role to play to address the skyrocketing youth e-cigarette epidemic and the serious threat it poses to the health of our children. This legislation will enhance research on youth use of e-cigarettes and emerging tobacco products, improve and expand education efforts, and support state, local and tribal efforts to address this crisis. We applaud Rep. Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Blumenthal for their leadership in working to reverse this epidemic and prevent e-cigarettes from addicting a new generation of kids,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“The American Lung Association applauds Representative Wasserman Schultz and Senator Blumenthal for introducing the PROTECT Act, which will take critical steps to address the skyrocketing rates of e-cigarette use by our nation’s youth,” said Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “In one year, e-cigarette use increased by a staggering 78 percent among high school students and use by middle school students—kids as young as 11—increased by 48 percent.  The PROTECT Act will provide vital funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect our nation’s youth from the growing e-cigarette epidemic.” 

“The growing use by America’s youth of e-cigarettes, flavored tobacco products, and vaping is now at national epidemic proportions,” said Laura Fennimore, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, National President of the Oncology Nursing Society. “Oncology nurses see the real impact on our nation’s future health. ONS supports the PROTECT Act and the effort to prevent teen use of tobacco before it begins.”

"The National Medical Association supports the PROTECT Act and the goal to decrease the usage of e-cigarettes and increase the research into the harmful effects of e-cigarette usage in our youth. This is a crisis and the increased usage is at epidemic proportions,” said Dr. Niva Lubin-Johnson, President of the National Medical Association. “We applaud Congressman Wasserman Schultz and Senator Blumenthal for their concern about this health hazard and will continue to be of assistance regarding this issue or any other that is detrimental to the health of the patients we serve. We are the collective voice of African American physicians in the US and its territories for justice and parity in medicine.”

The funding would provide critical support for the following activities at CDC:

  • Enhancing research on youth use of e-cigarettes and emerging tobacco products.
  • Identifying effective messages to youth and others who work with youth for reducing e-cigarette and tobacco product use.
  • Educating youth about the rapidly evolving tobacco product landscape and the harmful effects of tobacco products.
  • Providing funds via grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts to state, local, tribal, and national organizations for preventing and reducing youth e-cigarette use.
  • Informing the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based policies to prevent initiation and use of e-cigarettes among youth.

Additionally, the bill directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to make public its strategy for reducing the use of e-cigarettes among youth to help foster greater transparency and accountability at the Department.

The PROTECT Act is co-sponsored by: U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and U.S. Representatives Nanette Barragán (CA-44), David Scott (GA-13), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Henry "Hank" Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and Nydia M. Velazquez (NY-12).

The PROTECT Act is supported by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, National Association of County and City Health Officials, Kids V Cancer, Oncology Nursing Society, National Medical Association, Broward County Medical Association, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Public Health Association, Trust for America's Health, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, and American Association for Cancer Research.