Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced a three-year, $160 million initiative to address the increasingly widespread use of e-cigarettes among American teens and young adults.
To be led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in partnership with parent and community organizations, the Protect Kids: Fight Flavored E-Cigarettes initiative aims to ban all flavored e-cigarettes and stop e-cigarette companies from marketing their products — which deliver nicotine and other additives in vapor form — to kids and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of high school and middle school students who use e-cigarettes increased by 78 percent and 48 percent between 2017 and 2018, to more than 3.6 million youth, accounting for about a third of all U.S. e-cigarette users.
In response to hundreds of reported cases of severe respiratory illnesses associated with vaping and e-cigarette use, the CDC has issued a health advisory urging users to stop while investigations continue. Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration said that Juul, the leading e-cigarette company, had violated federal regulations by promoting its tobacco products as being healthier than traditional cigarettes. Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has committed nearly $1 billion since 2007 in support of efforts to reduce tobacco use globally, notes that e-cigarettes are especially dangerous for adolescents due to nicotine's highly addictive properties and its effect on their still-developing brains.
To address the increase in youth e-cigarette use, the initiative will support local legislative and regulatory measures in cities and states aimed at removing flavored e-cigarette products from the marketplace; ensure that such products are subjected to review before they reach the market and that products currently on the market are subjected to prompt review; end e-cigarette marketing practices designed to appeal to youth; and stop online e-cigarette sales until sales to adolescents can be prevented.
With the aim of evaluating the impact of state- and community-level policies around youth access, initiation, and use of flavored tobacco products, the initiative also will support the collection and analysis of e-cigarette retail sales data, the incidence of teen e-cigarette use, and teens' attitudes toward vaping and e-cigarette use.
"E-cigarette companies and the tobacco companies that back them are preying on America's youth," said former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and the World Health Organization's global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases. "They are using the same marketing tactics that once lured kids to cigarettes, and the result is an epidemic that is spiraling out of control and putting kids in danger of addiction and serious health problems. The federal government has the responsibility to protect children from harm, but it has failed — so the rest of us are taking action."
(Photo credit: Sarah Johnson, Blacknote.com)