(re: “Lawmakers seek to curb e-cigs,” Sept. 19)
Electronic cigarette manufacturers have targeted our youth in product development and marketing. This practice has contributed to an epidemic of addiction of minors to products with toxic chemicals.
The dangerous, and potentially deadly, short- and long-term health consequences for children and adolescents from these products demand immediate action in New York City.
Gov. Cuomo raised the age for the purchase of any tobacco-related product from 18 to 21, a law that goes into effect in November. He also instituted a temporary ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Cuomo’s ban followed news of a mysterious vaping-related lung illness that sickened hundreds, and is believed to be responsible for 19 deaths.
However, the New York State Appellate Division recently halted the governor’s ban until Oct. 18, when a case challenging the ban is heard.
Regardless of the outcome, government must remove all e-cigarettes and vaping products from the stores that children and adolescents visit frequently. To that end, I have forwarded proposed legislation to the city council Speaker and the chair of the New York City Council Health Committee to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes by any retail store within 300 feet of a school in New York City.
This measure can be accomplished by amending the city’s administrative code, which already regulates the use and distribution of these products.
E-cigarettes, also known as “vape pens,” are frequently used for nicotine delivery. They are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid, which turns into an aerosol mist that is inhaled and then exhaled. The liquid is contained in a cartridge or pod.
However, other toxins are released by the heated fluid. While manufacturers disclose the presence of nicotine, flavoring chemicals and humectants in their advertising, they often omit reference to toxicants, ultrafine particles and carcinogens.
Notably, each pod may contain as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people refrain from using e-cigarettes or vaping, particularly products containing THC. It is suspected that the cause of the recent epidemic of lung disease is some kind of chemical exposure.
Officials have not identified a single e-cigarette or vaping product, brand or specific substance that has been linked to the outbreak. However, preliminary information suggests that a high percentage of patients used products containing THC in the months prior to their illness.
Experiments involving electronic cigarettes on cell cultures and animal studies point to numerous health effects, which are cardiovascular, neoplastic, infectious and respiratory in nature. Chemical analyses have uncovered numerous respiratory irritants and toxicants in these products.
Yet, the marketing of e-cigarettes has yielded a different view by youth and adolescents. Students have reported using e-cigarettes due to the perception that they cause less harm than cigarettes, there is greater acceptability of e-cigarettes to non-tobacco users, and the ability to use e-cigarettes in places where smoking is prohibited.
The U.S. Surgeon General has found that many of the marketing techniques used by e-cigarettes companies are similar to those used by the tobacco industry for conventional cigarettes. The CDC analyzed data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey and reported that in 2016, four out of five U.S. middle and high school students were exposed to e-cigarette advertisements from at least one source.
In this national sample of students, the most common places for exposure among middle and high school students were retail stores, followed by the internet, television, newspapers and magazines.
As health officials continue to assess the effects of e-cigarettes, government must err on the side of caution by limiting youth and adolescent exposure to these products. While it is difficult to curb exposure to e-cigarettes online, our local legislators can disrupt the marketing of e-cigarettes to children in the stores they frequently visit — those closest to their schools.
The author is a candidate for city council.