Sen. Lisa Murkowski spoke on electronic cigarette use among youth at a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing Wednesday. 

The hearing centered on the public health response to what's being called the youth vaping epidemic. Murkowski has put forward and supported legislation preventing sales of e-cigarettes and vaping products to youth.

In her address, she cited 2019 data indicating 27.5% of high school students have used e-cigarettes. Murkowski says part of her work has been to remove products marketed toward youth.

Murkowski also said that e-cigarettes and vaping products have been classified as cessation products. However, she emphasized the need to educate youth about the potential health problems that come with using products marketed as alternatives to cigarettes.

“So if it can be used to get someone off nicotine, then surely it can’t be that bad, even if there is nicotine in it," she said. "When we’re talking about consistent messages to kids, I think you have to be up front and direct. This harms you. This addicts you. This could ultimately kill you. I don’t think we need to nuance the message here."

While witnesses who testified before the committee highlighted pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette products and cited their investigation found 80% affected by vaping-related illnesses showed a presence of THC, Murkowski urged them to also include nicotine data in their research.

"Panelists confirmed there are two clear epidemics taking place: the skyrocketing use of e-cigarette use among children and the outbreak of lung injury that is pointing to THC and other additives being used in e-cigarette and vaping products," Murkowski's office said.

As of Nov. 5, there had been more than 2,000 e-cigarette- and vaping-related illnesses reported and 39 deaths confirmed. 

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