Health Hearing on Banning the Sale of Flavored E-Cigarettes

New York City Council Committee on Health Hearing
Chair Mark Levine Opening Statement

For Release: January 30, 2019
Contact: Jake Sporn // 917-842-5748 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov

City Hall, NY -- Today, City Council Health Chair Mark Levine will be chairing a hearing on his legislation to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes. Below are his opening remarks:

“Good afternoon. I am New York City Council Member Mark Levine, Chair, Committee on Health. I’d like to thank my fellow council members, committee staff, and members of the public who have joined us.

Today, we will hear testimony on two bills: Introduction 1362, of which I’m proud to be the lead sponsor – a Local Law in relation to prohibiting the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes; and Introduction 1345, sponsored by Council Member Cabrera a Local Law in relation to prohibiting the sale of flavored cigarettes.

At its best, our public health system responds quickly and decisively in the face of emerging health threats.

But in the case of teen use of e-cigarettes, we have been frozen in inaction.

Electronic cigarettes--also known as vapes or e-cigs--are electronic or battery operated devices that deliver nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavoring through vaporization or aerosolization.

None of these chemicals are good for you. Nicotine is highly addictive, with known risks for heart patients, pregnant women, and potential harm to the developing brains of kids, with possible impact on their memory and attention.

E-cigarettes are undoubtedly less harmful than traditional combustible cigarettes. And they may indeed be a good tool to help people quit smoking tobacco products.

But for most of the past decade, that’s not how e-cigarettes have been marketed.

They have been presented as a glamorous, trendy, even sexy product in ads almost always featuring young, attractive people--a message that young people themselves have massively amplified in social media. This aggressive marketing strategy echos the messaging of tobacco ads in decades past, and--not coincidentally--tobacco companies themselves have invested tens of billions of dollars into the e-cigarette companies and are increasing driving the industry.

The result--predictably--has been soaring rates of e-cigarette use, not by adults quitting smoking, but by teenagers for whom this product is a gateway into nicotine addiction.

Between 2011 and 2015, vaping by young consumers rose 900%. With estimates today that no less than 30% of teens, including high school and middle school--middle school--students are users of e-cigarettes. Even President Trump’s Food and Drug Administration has called this ‘nothing short of an epidemic.’

Just what kind of e-cigarettes are young people consuming?  Are they smoking vapes that mimic the taste of tobacco? No. They are vaping a veritable candy store’s selection of fruity and enticing flavors.  Here are just a few of the e-cigarette flavors now being sold in this city:

  • Caramel Cafe
  • Blueberry
  • Mint Chocolate
  • Berry Cobbler
  • Mango
  • Strawberry Mint
  • Pina Colada
  • Cherry Crush
  • Watermelon Twist

It is beyond dispute that these flavors appeal directly to the tastes of kids.

It should be noted you can’t sell tobacco products with any of those flavors. We banned that a long time ago in this city, precisely because we don’t want to entice people into cigarette addiction.

It is time we do the same with e-cigarettes. Adults who want to quit smoking will still have access to their vapes in flavorless or tobacco-flavored varieties.  But we must protect kids from the allure of all those candyish flavors that are today luring so many into addiction.

We will hear today from a variety of voices on this critical issue.  Most importantly, we will hear from parents and, even some young people, who are directly confronting this epidemic in schools, playgrounds, and elsewhere in this city.  

We will hear from small businesses about the economic impact of a flavor ban, a perspective we care deeply about.  

We will hear from adult smokers who value e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, and we care about that perspective too.

But throughout this discussion one concern must remain paramount: the health of the young people of this city. We have been slow to react to this emerging crisis.  We can’t afford to linger in inaction any longer.”

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