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Children caught vaping in school may be required to attend a state-created smoking cessation program under legislation introduced recently in the state Assembly.

Assemblyman Keith Brown, D-Northport, has introduced A.10547 to amend the state Public Health Law to require those caught using electronic cigarettes or vapor products in schools to attend an Electronic Cigarette or Vapor Product Prevention, Control or Awareness Program. Attendance in the program would be part of a bigger state effort to create an educational program used in schools throughout the state to discourage electronic cigarette use. Children under the age of 21 who are found using or in possession of an electronic cigarette or vapor product will also have their parents or guardians notified, according to the bill text.

“Electronic cigarettes are a relatively recent product and manufacturers had previously geared marketing toward non-smoking youth, with a large assortment of sweet flavors of e-liquid and ad campaigns,” Brown wrote in his legislative justification. “Additionally, certain youth-targeting e-cigarettes were designed to be small and sleek, and refillable with user-friendly pre-filled pods of liquid-making the device easy to conceal from authority figures. A single pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The New York State Department of Health has received numerous reports from New York state physicians of severe pulmonary (lung-related) illness among patients ranging from 14 to 71 years of age who were using at least one vape product prior to becoming ill.”

Brown’s legislation comes as the federal government considers a review of Juul, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic cigarettes. The FDA ordered Juul to pull its products from the market on June 23. A day later, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the government ban at Juul’s request. The FDA then decided to put the court fight on hold while the government reopens its review of Juul’s products.

If the FDA eventually decides to reimpose its ban, Juul will have 30 days to seek another stay, according to the filing. According to the Associated Press, companies must show that their e-cigarettes benefit public health in order to remain on the market. In practice, that means proving that adult smokers who use them are likely to quit or reduce their smoking, while teens are unlikely to get hooked on them.

The AP has reported that FDA regulators have recently authorized a handful of e-cigarettes from some of Juul’s chief rivals, including R.J. Reynolds and NJOY. But industry players and anti-vaping advocates had been eagerly awaiting an FDA decision on Juul’s products, which are the best-selling e-cigarettes in the U.S. The FDA originally said Juul’s application left regulators with significant questions, including about the chemical makeup of its vaping formulations. Juul said it submitted enough information and data to address all issues raised.

At the same time, the European Commission said its proposal comes in response to a significant increase in the volume of such products sold across the 27-nation bloc. A recent commission study showed a 10% increase in sales of heated tobacco products in more than five member nations, while heated tobacco products exceeded 2.5% of total sales of tobacco products overall across the region, according to the Associated Press. The ban would cover devices using heated tobacco to produce emissions containing nicotine inhaled by users. E-cigarettes may contain nicotine, but not tobacco. With traditional cigarettes, users inhale smoke from burning tobacco.

Results of the FDA review of Juul and the European Commission’s proposed ban may play a role in how much traction Brown’s legislation gets in the state Legislature when next year’s legislative session begins, because Brown’s bill takes a harsh stance on the usefulness of electronic cigarettes.

“E-cigarette use among youth and young adults is a major public health concern because today’s youth use e-cigarettes more than cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and hookah,” Brown wrote in his legislative justification. “In fact almost five times as many high school students in New York state use e-cigarettes than smoke cigarettes and New York state smoking rate among youth is at a record low (4.3%), but their e-cigarette use doubled between 2014 and 2016 (from 10.5% to 20.6%). While few high school students say they plan to try smoking cigarette, increased numbers are open to trying. e-cigarettes. More than half of teens believe nondaily e-cigarette use causes little or some harm and of young people who use e-cigarettes, a third falsely believe nondaily e-cigarette use is harmless. E-cigarette use does not prevent from smoking, in fact adolescents and young adults who use e-cigarettes are at increased risk for starting smoking and continuing’ to smoke and more than half of high school students and young adults who smoke cigarettes also use e-cigarettes. This bill would create an educational tool that would help educate and divert young people already at risk.”

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