One of my most sacred obligations as Mayor is keeping our children safe from harm. And one of the leading risks to their health is nicotine-based products, including cigarettes and e-cigarettes, also known as vapes.
We have made great progress, as a city and nation, keeping our youth safe from traditional cigarette smoking—bringing down youth smoking rates from 23% in 2000 to 2.3% in 2021. But with the rise of vaping, nicotine addiction among middle and high school students is once again on the rise. Vapes are packed with nicotine, a toxic and highly addictive chemical that is particularly damaging to adolescent minds and bodies.
Worse still, companies are luring our children by advertising youth-friendly vape flavors such as “strawberry milkshake,” “cola,” and “pina colada.” Their product packaging often features colorful, child-friendly cartoon characters designed to catch the eye of young people.
This is illegal. And my administration will not stand by while companies put our children at risk.
Last week, we announced a major federal lawsuit against four distributors of flavored, disposable e-cigarettes. Our lawsuit names four distributors of flavored vape that are putting profits over people and hurting our young people. We are seeking a court order that will prevent these distributors from further delivering their dangerous flavored products into New York City. And we are asking them to pay for the harm they have already caused our children.
When children see youth-friendly packaging, they may think: ‘This is something I’d like to try. This is something that won’t hurt me.’ Families should be clear: that is 100% false. Nicotine may affect the ability to learn and concentrate and withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, anxiety, and depression, worsening mental health at a time when our young people are already struggling.
In 2021, more than 1 in 10 public high school students across the country reported using e-cigarettes in a 30-day sample period. And flavored e-cigarettes with their colorful packaging and appealing flavors are the gateway to long-term e-cigarette use. 81% of first-time users, ages 12-17, started with flavored products. Most have never previously smoked. An overwhelming majority of youth e-cigarette users choose to vape because they were attracted to the flavors.
We will not allow this greedy, harmful, and openly illegal behavior to continue. We will not allow these nicotine-pushers to harm the health of our children, to put our students on the path to addiction, make them customers and users for life, and expose them to unknown long-term health effects.
We will do whatever it takes to keep our children safe, and our lawsuit seeks to stop these four companies dead in their tracks.