VIDEO: "We Can't Wait!" Dozens of Children, Leaders Demand NYC Crack Down on Flavored Tobacco Products Today

NYC groups and leaders sending message in response to possible federal action on flavored e-cigarettes, representatives of communities of color demand action to restrict menthol sales

NEW YORK, NY (09/15/2019) (readMedia)-- Today, standing in front of the Department of Education (DOE), dozens of children, parents, elected officials and advocates are rallying in support of restrictions on all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes in New York City. Two bills before the City Council - Intro. 1362 (Cabrera) and Intro. 1345 (Levine) - would do just that.

WATCH the press conference here.

This week, the Trump administration announced plans to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market, although action is not certain, would be subject to industry challenge, and does not include menthol cigarettes. And while Trump's plan would have the FDA remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market, companies (like Juul) would still be able to apply to get their products back on the market.

"While the news out of Washington is promising, it is as critical as ever that New York City take immediate action to address this crisis and protect kids. Tobacco companies will do everything they can to delay and weaken this federal proposal and then fight it in court. And the FDA could later allow flavored products back on the market. We are dealing with a public health emergency and cannot afford more delays in protecting New York kids. The New York City Council must act now to protect kids by cracking down on all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and menthol," said Andre Richardson, Campaign Manager for Tobacco Free Kids.

New FDA survey data show youth use of e-cigarettes skyrocketed 135% in the last two years, and 5 million middle and high school students nationwide now use e-cigarettes. On Tuesday, the Department of Health released data that shows 1 in 15 NYC middle school students reported using e-cigarettes and 14.4% of middle school students (about 29,000 students) had ever tried e-cigarettes.

Adding to the urgency, this summer, there have been at least 450 people across the country who were hospitalized for vaping-related illnesses and six people have died. 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." Governor Cuomo announced this week he plans on introducing legislation of flavored e-cigarettes statewide.

"The time is now to protect New York City kids by cracking down on flavored tobacco products. We know that tobacco companies will fight tooth and nail to resist any federal action meaning this crisis is too serious to wait for Washington. The City Council should move quickly to restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products in New York – including flavored e-cigarettes, cigars and menthol cigarettes," said Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

"We cannot afford to see if the Trump Administration is serious about implementing a national ban of flavored e-cigarette products because every day we wait more and more children in our city are getting hooked," said City Council Health Chair Mark Levine. "Vaping has reached epidemic levels among young people in New York City and this epidemic is being driven by flavored nicotine products. We have an obligation to act decisively to get these all flavors tobacco products - including menthol cigarettes - off the shelves and, in doing so, remove the biggest lure that is trapping a new generations in nicotine addiction. This is too important to wait around for Washington to act on our behalf; we are going to keep pushing to protect the health of kids in NYC."

"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.

"It's simple - flavored tobacco products like flavored cigarettes and e-cigarettes make tobacco products more appealing to kids. We know tobacco products are catastrophic to the heath of anyone that uses them. When kids see these candy and mint flavored tobacco products in the same stores that they buy their candy and gum in, it makes see like it's not as dangerous to use. As a mother, I'm deeply concerned about this," said Rachel Rivera, member, New York Communities for Change.

"Research indicates that flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes entice young people to start using these dangerous products," said Robin Vitale, Vice President of Health Strategies, American Heart Association in New York City. "The American Heart Association strongly advocates for a comprehensive solution to this health crisis and supports the legislation proposed by Council Members Levine and Cabrera. These bills will help to reduce the appeal of tobacco and e-cigarettes and lower the incidence of tobacco-caused disease and death."

"By restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes, we can prevent thousands of premature deaths, especially among the African American community, and keep an entire generation from getting hooked on nicotine," said Michael Davoli, Director, Government Relations, of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). "We know how to reduce cancer rates in New York City if only we have the courage to stand up to Big Tobacco and once and for all get rid of all flavored tobacco products. ACS CAN calls on the City Council to immediately pass both Intro 1345 and Intro 1362."

"While Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes (PAVe) is thrilled that the FDA plans to ban flavored e-cigs, we know this is just the first important step in the ongoing fight to protect kids from the predatory practices of JUUL: Big Tobacco 2.0. We hope that the Trump administration will fulfill its promise to ban e-cig flavors and do so quickly and completely, resisting industry pressure. But while federal regulations can be undone, laws will last. And that's why we are proud to join our coalition partners in redoubling our efforts to support both Council member Mark Levine's bill to ban e-cig flavors and Council member Fernando Cabrera's bill to ban all flavored tobacco including menthol cigarettes that the industry has for years used to target minority communities in our city and across the country. In New York City, we PAVe MOM-vocates are calling upon the City Council to immediately pass these bills: The latest figures are frightening and we are literally in a race against time to keep our kids from becoming the next generation of nicotine addicts! Join us!" said Meredith Berkman, co-founder of PAVe.

"Flavored tobacco, especially menthol cigarettes, has been a killer in our communities for decades," said Lorraine Braithwaite-Harte, Health Chairman NAACP NYS Conference, 1st VP Brooklyn NAACP Branch. "In New York City, 85 percent of Black adults and 64 percent of Latino adults who smoke use menthol cigarettes, compared to only 22 percent of white adults - this is not by accident. We must not forget about menthol when talking about flavored e-cigarettes. Any legislation that passes must include a ban of menthol cigarettes -we can't continue to leave behind communities of color."

"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.

"I support the proposals to ban the sale of both flavored electronic cigarettes and menthol, mint, and wintergreen flavored cigarettes, and I have co-sponsored both bills," said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik. "Enticing children to start smoking – with either traditional or electronic cigarettes – is wrong. These products threaten our children's health and therefore have no place in our city."

"We need to face the reality that the tobacco industry is back in full force and our kids are the target once again. City Council has the power to protect them by restricting the sale of both flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes. We need to do our job and take immediate action in passing these bills, we need to stop smoking-related illnesses and nicotine addiction from affecting any more of New York City's children. I stand with my colleagues and all those that care about the health of our youth until we get this done," said Council Member Rafeal Espinal.

"New York City has an opportunity to once again lead the nation by removing all flavored tobacco products including e-cigarettes from store shelves. It's now clearer than ever that e-cigarettes are not safe and can cause irreversible lung damage and lung disease. Flavors disguise the danger of these products and lure children and teens into a lifetime of addiction and tobacco-related death and disease. Now is the time for the City Council to pass comprehensive restrictions on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes to prevent another generation from beginning a harmful addiction," said Michael Seilback, National Assistant Vice President of State Public Policy for the American Lung Association.

"The Federal Administration's possible move to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes is an encouraging sign," said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. "However, with companies using flavors like cotton candy, gummy bear, and crème brûlée to market addictive tobacco products to our kids, we cannot afford to wait. We must take action and pass the Council's bills ending the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and relegating the sale of menthol, mint and wintergreen tobacco products to adult-only tobacco retailers far from NYC's kids."

"Both flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes are causing health complications for our communities, especially among youth. We cannot trust Washington's leadership to combat this crisis and must act locally to demand action. I am proud to co-sponsor both pieces of legislation and remain committed to their passage," said Council Member Diana Ayala.

"There is no question in my mind that adolescents are the targets of the producers of flavored e-cigarettes for the consumption of their product, which is both dangerous and highly addictive. We must stop their sale in New York immediately," said Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz.

"City officials need to do whatever it takes to keep tobacco out of the hands of children," said NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst). "The health risks associated with usage of tobacco products cannot be overstated. It is crucial that legislators pay particular attention to flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes as a significant number of young people are using these products. As someone who taught 4th graders for over two decades, this effort is a top priority for me. I thank Council Members Cabrera and Levine, the prime sponsors of this legislation, for taking swift action in support of our city's youth."

"The focus on banning flavored products is definitely a step in the right direction. Anything that masks the harsh taste of tobacco is understandably appealing to kids," said Council Member Adams. "The severity of illness that people- especially youth are experiencing as a result of these products is alarming. We cannot afford to wait on the administration in Washington D.C. to act. Banning the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes is the right thing to do. It will reverse a dangerous trend and save lives."