PHOTOS: Advocates to New Yorkers: "Back to School, Not Juul"

Effort backs Council legislation restricting sale of e-cigarette flavors & menthol by organizing parents outside schools on first day of classes

NEW YORK, NY (09/05/2019) (readMedia)-- Today, as NYC public school students headed back to school, a broad coalition of parent, community and advocacy organizations hosted a day of action throughout New York City to educate parents on the dangers of flavored tobacco products. Volunteers for the coalition -- Flavors Hook Kids NYC -- encouraged New Yorkers to contact their local Council Members and urged them to support legislation that will restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products, including the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes.

Photos of the day of action can be found HERE.

"Back to school should not mean back to Juul," said Andre Richardson, Campaign Manager for Flavors Hook Kids NYC, referring to the largest e-cigarette producer. "Every day there is another story about a teen who has developed a preventable vaping related illness. Every day another kid gets hooked on menthol cigarettes, possibly shortening their life. Enough is enough. it's time for the most important city in the world to show leadership and restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol and flavored e-cigarettes."

There have been a series of recent reports about illnesses and even two deaths associated with vaping amid a huge increase in youth e-cigarette use. In New York, the state Department of Health recently issued a warning about e-cigarette use, citing multiple cases of "severe pulmonary disease" among patients "who reported recent use of vape products." This week, the Governor of Michigan banned flavored e-cigarettes across the entire state.

In response, Flavors Hook Kids NYC -- a coalition of dozens of health, religious, parent and community organizations -- launched an all-out effort to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products in New York City - including e-cigarette flavors and menthol cigarettes - before 2020. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is funding the effort, committing seven-figures to a campaign that will include a citywide paid media effort, as well as organizing and actions to get New Yorkers to contact their Council people about the bills. The paid media effort will include citywide ads across social media platforms, print advertising, radio and other mediums.

Members of the growing coalition are: the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes (PAVe), New York Communities for Change, NAACP, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council NAATPN, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Neighbors in Action, Last Call Church, United Concerned Citizens, NYPIRG, Bishop Courtenay of Emmanuel Church of God in Brooklyn, Arthur Ashe Institute Public Health, among others. The list is in formation.

According to the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey, during the one-year period between 2017 and 2018 e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 78 percent. Over 3 million high school students used e-cigarettes in 2018. And more than 80 percent of kids who have used tobacco started with a flavored product.

"We are at a critical juncture in our nation's public health history," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Together, Councilmember Levine's and Cabrera's bills will have an enormous impact on the effort to reduce the number of people who die from tobacco use, tackle the youth e-cigarette epidemic, significantly reduce the number of young people who become addicted, and dramatically reduce the death toll of tobacco on New York City's African-American population."

"When students from all over New York City return to school this week, tens-of-thousands of kids will be carrying something other than notebooks and pencils--they will be carrying an e-cigarette," said City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine. "We need to do everything in our power to combat this challenge and that is why I am sponsoring, together with 21 of my colleagues in the City Council, Introduction 1362, a bill that would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette products in New York City. Getting all the flavored e-cigarettes off the shelves will remove the biggest lure that is trapping a new generation in nicotine addiction. The formation of the Flavors Hook Kids NYC Coalition will be a powerful force in pushing this bill over the finish line and advocating against the harms of youth nicotine use in our city."

"We know that smoking kills and evidence indicates that e-cigarettes can lead youthful consumers to become tobacco smokers. In recent weeks we've seen a number of deaths and serious lung damage in young people who have vaped electronic cigarettes. Now we see the evidence that flavored cigarettes and vaping have increased the health risks for our kids. Young people don't understand the long-term and life altering impact that these substances can have on them. We need to educate kids and parents and enact the laws that will protect our youth," said Fernando Cabrera, New York City Councilmember representing the 14th District in the Bronx.

"In New York City, 85 percent of menthol cigarette smokers are black-and Big Tobacco is the reason why," said Rev. Dr. Robert Waterman of Brooklyn. "Big Tobacco has ruthlessly targeted our communities in New York for years, and it continues to every day. Smoking-related illness is the largest cause of preventable death for black people. Restricting the sale of menthol cigarettes is long overdue--let's get it done for the health of our community and the future of our children."

"We healthcare providers are seeing the rise in flavored tobacco use among New York's youngest residents. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and the number of vaping-related illnesses continues to grow each day. New York City must do what it can to protect our children," said Robert Hayes, President and CEO of Community Healthcare Network.

"For generations, Big Tobacco has inundated out communities with menthol ads, targeting us and hooking new smokers daily," said Lorraine Braithwaite-Harte, Health Chairman of the NAACP New York State Conference. "Seven-out-of-ten African-American youth smokers smoke menthol cigarettes--and now more and more of our youth are getting addicted to similar e-cigarette flavors. For our community's future and wellbeing, we must protect our children and restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, for good."

"It's time we put an end to Big Tobacco's dangerous, aggressive marketing of flavored products to kids in New York City," said Michael Davoli, Director, New York Metro of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "As New York City parents send their kids back to school this month we are calling on the City Council to do their part to prevent young people from developing a lifelong addiction to nicotine and getting hooked on deadly menthol cigarettes."

"As a national grassroots advocacy group created in response to the youth vaping epidemic, Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes (PAVe) is proud to join our many partners in the Flavors Hook Kids NYC Coalition," said Meredith Berkman, co-founder of PAVE (Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes). "This fall, as our kids head back to school, we urge the New York City's Council to take the lead in our nation's fight to protect our kids from Big Tobacco 2.0 by banning e-cigarette flavors and all other flavored tobacco products that research has proven hook our kids on nicotine. Nicotine, provided in large amounts by flavored e-cigarettes including JUUL, harms developing brains and the other toxins can cause cardiovascular damage. In fact, as evidenced by the recent reports of dozens of cases of teen lung illness possibly linked to vaping, we have no idea exactly what our kids are pulling deep into their lungs. Unless we take action soon to combat the predatory practices of companies like JUUL and the Gang-Big Tobacco 2.0-we risk having our young people become an entire generation of nicotine addicts!"

"The 'cool refreshing taste of menthol' heralded by the tobacco industry is just a guise; ultimately, menthol allows the poisons in cigarettes and cigarillos to 'go down into the body' more easily," said Dr. Phillip Gardiner, Co-Chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. "Moreover, 85% African American adult smokers and 94% of Black youth who smoke are using menthol products."

"There is no doubt...flavored tobacco products – including menthol – hook kids! These new products are reversing decades of progress in reducing tobacco use among youth and worsening the persistent disparities regarding addiction among communities of color. The American Heart Association in New York City supports effective policies designed to tackle this problem and keep dangerous flavored tobacco products out of the hands of a new generation. We support the bill package introduced by Council Members Mark Levine and Fernando Cabrera that, together, aim to reduce the influence of these deadly products," said Robin Vitale, VP of Health Strategies, American Heart Association in New York City.