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To Protect Kids, Gov. Cuomo’s Order Banning Flavored E-Cigarettes Must Be Strengthened to Include Menthol

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
September 15, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – We applaud New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for taking emergency action to stem the worsening youth e-cigarette epidemic, but his emergency order falls short of the comprehensive prohibition on flavored e-cigarettes that is needed and would allow Juul and other e-cigarette manufacturers to continue targeting and addicting kids with menthol e-cigarettes.

Governor Cuomo correctly recognizes that we face a youth e-cigarette epidemic and e-cigarettes pose serious health problems, especially to youth. New York has long been a leader in reducing tobacco use. It is disappointing, however, that the proposed New York policy would make the serious error of exempting menthol e-cigarettes less than a week after the federal government concluded that the only way to stem the youth e-cigarette epidemic is to remove all flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol.

We urge New York’s Public Health and Health Planning Council, which will hold an emergency meeting this week, to strengthen the policy and stop the sale of ALL flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol. We also urge policy makers at all levels – including the New York City Council and the New York Legislature – to enact comprehensive prohibitions on ALL flavored e-cigarettes, as well as other flavored tobacco products.

The evidence is clear that if you leave any flavored e-cigarettes on the market, kids will shift to them. That has already happened with mint and menthol e-cigarettes in the past year, and it will continue to happen if menthol e-cigarettes are left on the market. This is exactly what Juul and other e-cigarette makers want. Don't play into their hands.

According to newly-released data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (2019 NYTS), the percentage of high school e-cigarette users who reported using mint and menthol flavors increased to 63.9% in 2019, from 42.3% in 2017 and 51.2% in 2018. If other e-cigarette flavors are banned but menthol isn’t, even more kids will use menthol e-cigarettes.

This is repeating the mistake made with menthol cigarettes, which must be banned as well. There is no justification for leaving menthol e-cigarettes on the market. The evidence is clear that menthol e-cigarettes appeal to and are widely used by kids, while there is absolutely NO evidence that menthol e-cigarettes are helping smokers quit.

There is no time to waste in addressing the youth e-cigarette epidemic with a comprehensive ban on all flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol. The 2019 NYTS showed the youth e-cigarette epidemic has gotten even worse this year. E-cigarette use among high school students nationwide rose from 20.8% in 2018 to 27.5% in 2019, meaning that more than 1 in 4 high schoolers use e-cigarettes. A total of 5 million U.S. kids now use e-cigarettes. In New York, 27.4% of high school students use e-cigarettes, compared to 4.8% who smoke cigarettes.