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New York City may ban flavored vapes as soon as next week

New York City could ban flavored vaping products as soon as next week, in a move that would make the metropolis of 8.6 million people the most populous place in America to ban flavored e-cigarettes.

The backlash against flavored e-cigarettes has gained momentum after a vaping-linked illness swept across the United States, killing at least 40 people and sickening 2,000 more. Vaping bans have emerged in an effort to curb e-cigarettes’ appeal to young people.

New York City was also home to one of the youngest victims of the epidemic: a 17-year-old Bronx boy, who died this October from complications related to the illness.

The ban would halt the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes in New York City, except tobacco flavors. Already, there appears to be majority support for the measure in the city council, and the mayor, Bill de Blasio, said he supports the measure.

Juul, which dominates the vaping industry, had already stopped selling flavors other than tobacco and menthol in an effort to stymy criticism.

“We have failed to contain the rise of what can only be called an epidemic,” Mark Levine, city council person for New York City, told the Guardian. “We have 400,000 teens who vaped last year in New York,” he said.

“These kids have been lured in because on the shelves of the city you can buy vaping products in flavors like bubblegum, mango and chocolate mint,” he said. The vaping industry, he said, has fought the proposal “tooth and nail” and “hired half the lobbyists in town”.

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This summer, pneumonia-like symptoms left victims gasping for breath, and in need of life support and even lung transplants. In some cases, lung injury was so severe they resembled chemical burns from industrial accidents.

Health authorities have issued increasingly drastic warnings about vaping. In 2018, the US surgeon general described youth vaping as an “epidemic”. This week, the American Medical Association (AMA), citing illnesses and deaths, called for an outright ban on all products not approved for smoking cessation by the US Food and Drug Administration.

“The recent lung illness outbreak has alarmed physicians and the broader public health community and shined a light on the fact that we have very little evidence about the short- and long-term health consequences of e-cigarettes and vaping products,” said Dr Patrice A Harris, AMA president. “It is imperative that we continue efforts to prevent youth from ever using nicotine.”

Courts have blocked would-be flavored e-cigarette bans in several jurisdictions, including New York state and Michigan. The Massachusetts legislature passed a flavored e-cigarette and menthol tobacco ban this month, and the legislation is awaiting the governor’s signature.

San Francisco will ban sales of e-cigarettes entirely beginning in 2020. The city is the corporate headquarters to Juul, which controls more than two-thirds of the US vape market. Juul has also become popular among children and teens.

Federal vaping regulations have been delayed for years, after industry argued they would put small manufacturers out of business. As well, vaping restrictions promised by the Trump administration have yet to materialize.

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Unlike in the UK, that has left the US vaping industry with almost no oversight. One consequence of that delay is stronger nicotine products – Juul pods are up to 5% nicotine by volume in the US, and 1.7% nicotine by volume in the UK.


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