Councilmember Bill Greenlee said youth vaping is a health epidemic, and the majority of youth who become addicted use flavored e-cigarettes.
“This bill addresses the only real way to address it, which is to keep kids away from this dangerous product,” Greenlee said. “And not have the product where the kids are.”
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the use of e-cigarettes and other vape products by teenagers is at epidemic levels and continuing to rise.
“Use among every age group of young people from middle school through 12th grade more than doubled between 2017 and 2019,” Farley said. “The change from 2017 to 2018 alone was the largest increase of any substance use among the nation’s youth ever recorded.”
Farley said more than a quarter of all high school students are using e-cigarettes. The increase is due to vaping products being available in fruit, candy, mint, and menthol flavors that appeal to young people.
“Teens who begin smoking menthol flavored e-cigarette products are twice as likely to become regular smokers,” Farley said.
Farley also noted the particularly addictive properties of nicotine, which is present in vaping products.
“Nicotine is a drug that is as addictive as heroin,” Farley said. “Each Juul pod tank contains nearly as much nicotine as two packs of cigarettes.”
Dr. Michael Madden, a paid consultant for R.J. Reynolds corporation, the second largest tobacco company in the United States, testified that e-cigarettes can be beneficial to adults looking to quit smoking, and most children do not choose menthol e-cigarette flavors.
“It would be illogical to prohibit menthol vaping products that continue to allow menthol tobacco products, and that’s what this bill would have would allow to happen at retail,” Madden said.
Neil Makhuja, a consumer protection attorney and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Cary School of Law, represented parents and children in one of the first class-action lawsuits against Juul Labs.
Makhuja said there are over 5 million children in the United States who are using e-cigarette and vaping products, creating a windfall for the tobacco industry.
“Juul is one of the fastest growing companies in American history,” Makhuja said. “It reached a $10 billion valuation faster than Facebook. In 2018, it was valued at $38 billion.”
The bill was approved and will be heard at the next meeting of council.
Lawrence McGlynn is a recent graduate of Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication where he earned a Master’s in Journalism. For the next several months he will be reporting out of City Hall on various council and committee meetings, the city’s budget, and how these impact the daily lives of Philadelphians.
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