Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York City and Counsel Georgia M. Pestana announced that New York City filed a federal lawsuit against 22 national online e-cigarette vendors as they sold products to underage children. The move hopes to combat the spreading use of these cigarettes by minors. The complaint alleges that the online retailers have no age verification systems in place and market addictive goods to youngsters in violation of law.
The mayor stated that the children of New York are the city’s pride, but to these companies, they are just sources of profit. Hooking minors and preying on them for a lifelong potentially lethal nicotine addiction is unconscionable and the lawsuit message is crystal clear: NYC will do everything possible to protect the city’s kids and their health.
Increasing abuse by youngsters
A July-August 2019 study focused on the age verification practices of national online retailers, revealing that under-aged city residents below 21, freely accessed websites of the companies who have been specified in the lawsuit and have purchased e-cigarette products directly in violation of the Local Law (94) of 2013. Most websites lacked age verification services, that can utilize government records databases to verify a purchaser’s identity and age before transactions are completed. In many cases, purchases were permitted even though buyers indicated that they were below 21.
New York City has faced public health crisis caused by tobacco products and over the last decade the City witnessed a surge in e-cigarette use, by minors, while traditional cigarettes use by both adults and youth in the City have declined. Preliminary results from a 2019 survey indicate that 27.5% of high school students nationwide are now e-cigarette users. In 2018, 7% of New York City public middle school students reported using e-cigarettes within the past month. Retailers are barred from peddling e-cigarettes and associated products to those below 21 years old and an another license is required to sell e-cigarettes. Use of e-cigarettes is prohibited in all places where smoking is prohibited, including schools, parks, and most workplaces. Pharmacies are no longer allowed to sell tobacco or e-cigarette products.
Vaping has become prevalent at alarming and epidemic levels among young New Yorkers as not enough steps are taken to protect kids from these highly addictive products. The companies named in the Mayor’s lawsuit continue to sell vaping products in candy-like flavours designed to appeal to youngsters and their strategy clearly works. To protect children these flavoured products must be banned off the shelves by holding tobacco companies accountable as they illegally take advantage of loose regulations of online sales to deliver nicotine products to underage New Yorkers. Literacy and knowledge about the dangers of e-cigarettes, is key to the NYC’s prevention efforts.
NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene unveiled a multi-platform and bilingual digital media campaign on Facebook, YouTube, Hulu, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Google Searches, to teach teens about e-cigarettes and it’s many dangers. Their fast-paced videos, which will run for a year, alert young people about vaping products and nicotine addiction, and inhaling toxic chemicals. Vaping and e-cigarettes pose a health threat as hundreds are falling sick due to these hazardous products, as per the Senate Health Committee and this lawsuit is a strong message and an important step towards stopping the sale of illegal and dangerous products to minors.