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29 Nov 2019

In response to alarming levels of e-cigarette use among youth in the United States – including a 78 per cent increase among high school students in just one year – Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced the creation of a new $160 million initiative aimed at ending the youth e-cigarette epidemic.

The initiative,  called Protect Kids: Fight Flavored E-Cigarettes, has goals that include banning all flavored e-cigarettes and stopping e-cigarette companies from marketing their products to children. The three-year program will be led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which will partner with other organisations including parent and community groups.

More than 3.6 million middle and high school students in the United States use e-cigarettes, accounting for about one-third of all U.S. e-cigarette users. E-cigarettes with kid-friendly flavors such as mint, mango, gummy bear and cotton candy are fueling this epidemic; 97 per cent of kids who use e-cigarettes use the flavored varieties, and 70 per cent report the flavors as the reason they use e-cigarettes.

Teen smoking rates in the United States declined by more than 70 per cent between 2000 and 2018, but the spike in e-cigarette use among youth threatens to undo a generation’s worth of progress.

The creation of the initiative comes as health authorities in 33 States are investigating more than 450 cases of severe respiratory illnesses associated with vaping, with many cases involving teens and young adults.

“E-cigarette companies and the tobacco companies that back them are preying on America’s youth,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies Founder and World Health Organisation Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases.

“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.

“The federal Government has the responsibility to protect children from harm, but it has failed – so the rest of us are taking action. I look forward to partnering with advocates in cities and States across the country on legislative actions that protect our kids’ health. The decline in youth smoking is one of the great health victories of this century, and we can’t allow tobacco companies to reverse that progress.”

The initiative will support local advocacy efforts in cities and States including legislative and regulatory measures to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the marketplace. Researchers have identified more than 15,000 e-cigarette flavors available online.

The project will also ensure e-cigarette products are subjected to review before they reach the market and products now on the market are reviewed promptly. And it will seek to end marketing practices that appeal to kids, and stop online e-cigarette sales until sales to kids can be prevented

Published: 29 Nov 2019