In response to an outbreak of lung injuries among otherwise healthy people who use electronic cigarettes or vaping products that has prompted investigations and public health warnings by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Governor Andrew Cuomo, and state and local health departments, Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) and State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) urged passage of their bill to hold electronic cigarettes to the same standards of distribution and transportation that currently apply to tobacco products.
State Senator Rivera is Chair of the Senate Health Committee while Assemblymember Paulin sits on the Assembly Health Committee
“The alarming public health incidents involving vaping confirm the worst nightmares of parents who were already alarmed by the increased use of Juul and other vape pens by teenagers,” Assemblymember Paulin argues.
“I have heard from student activists in my district who tell me that it is far easier to obtain electronic cigarettes and other vaping products from Internet retailers than to go to a physical store, since websites make only a rudimentary attempt to verify age. It simply makes no sense that you’re prohibited from buying addictive tobacco cigarettes online, but you can buy addictive electronic cigarettes online,” she explains.
“E-cigarettes and vaping products are causing New Yorkers to develop serious health issues, and our youth are particularly vulnerable. We have a responsibility to safeguard New Yorkers’ health by regulating these products as what they are – public health hazards that are just as damaging as traditional tobacco products, ” Senator Rivera explains. “The Senate’s upcoming hearing to investigate the safety and potential harm of such products will consider important policies such as this.”
Public health advocates, parents, educators, and student activists have expressed alarm for many years at the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes and vape pens among teenagers. The products usually contain the addictive substance nicotine. The intended use is to help those addicted to tobacco products to cease smoking by managing their cravings for nicotine. However, the very use of nicotine makes electronic cigarettes addictive as well.
In addition, electronic cigarettes routinely contain flavoring including diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease, other cancer-causing chemicals, and heavy metals including nickel, tin, and lead.
What could be a comparable health risk for long-term smokers is a clear danger for teenagers and others who never started smoking in the first place but could become addicted to vaping. The FDA has reported that within the past year, use of e-cigarettes has risen by 78% among high school students and 48% for middle school students.
The issue has taken on new urgency with an outbreak of 1,299 lung injury cases reported by the CDC through the end of September in which 100% of those persons injured indicated that they regularly vaped.
So far, 80% of these vape-related lung injury cases have been found in people 35 years and younger. Tragically, 26 people nationwide – including a 17 year-old in the Bronx – have died from a vaping-related sickness.
This legislation (A. 7714 / S. 3905) would ensure that electronic cigarettes are included, along with cigarettes and other tobacco products, in several important laws and regulations. In particular, it would add electronic cigarettes to the section of law that bans the shipment of cigarettes by businesses to individuals, including by Internet retailers.
“This bill will not impose an appreciable burden on individuals using e-cigarettes to break their addiction to tobacco, since it is the same set of regulations they’re already accustomed to following for tobacco products,” said Assemblymember Paulin. “But it will help close the loopholes that make e-cigarettes, vaping products, and nicotine easier to obtain than tobacco for those under age 21.”
“In the wake of a clear public health emergency, New York State has already mobilized to protect our citizens, particularly our young people, and I am hopeful these efforts will educate everyone on the health risks associated with vaping,” she adds. “We also need to employ the exact same policies and regulations that have helped us dramatically reduce the instances of teenage smoking. That’s what our bill does.”