By Jonathan Sperling
As e-cigarette use among children rises across New York and the nation, the city’s former mayor has announced that his philanthropy group will spend a whopping $160 million to end the crisis.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charity group formed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced on Tuesday that it would launch an initiative aimed at banning all flavored e-cigarettes — and stopping Juul and other e-cigarette companies from marketing their products to kids.
The three-year-long initiative, entitled “Protect Kids: Fight Flavored E-Cigarettes,” will be led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in partnership with other organizations. The announcement comes after the 17-year anniversary of Bloomberg’s introduction, as mayor, of the New York City Smoke-Free Air Act. Under the act, New York City became one of the first municipalities in the nation to prevent smoking in restaurants and bars.
The law contributed to a three-year increase in average life expectancy in New York City a decade after its passage, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies.
“E-cigarette companies and the tobacco companies that back them are preying on America’s youth. 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,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
The initiative identifies e-cigarettes as “uniquely dangerous” for children due to the highly addictive properties of nicotine and the fact that childhood exposure to nicotin can reduce attention, learning and memory.
In the initiative's announcement, Bloomberg Philanthropies specifically calls out Juul, one of the most popular e-cigarette manufacturers in the United State and the subject of several U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigations. Juul represents over 70 percent of the e-cigarette market in the United States, according to Bloomberg, and its e-cigarette delivers as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes in each Juul pod.
The initiative promises to angle its support toward local advocacy efforts in cities and states by supporting legislation in favor of removing flavored e-cigarettes from the marketplace, ensuring e-cigarette products are subjected to review before they reach the market, ending marketing practices that appeal to kids and stopping online e-cigarette sales until sales to kids can be prevented.
City councilmembers have also fought to end youth e-cigarette use. In July 2019, Councilmember Robert Holden introduced a bill that would prohibit retailers that sell smoking paraphernalia from operating within 500 feet of any public or private school in the city.
More than one in six New York City high school students, or 17.3 percent, reported using e-cigarettes in 2017, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.