E-cigarettes used by thousands of NYC’s middle school kids, data shows

The city health commissioner is pushing for a ban on flavored e-cig sales, saying they appeal to kids.

The city’s Health Department revealed alarming new information Tuesday about the use of electronic cigarettes among New York adolescents and teens, and pushed the city to crack down on the device’s availability to the youth.

Last year, about 13,000 middle school students, roughly 6.7%, reported using e-cigarettes and 29,000 students, about 14.4%, said they had tried them. Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said the numbers are concerning, particularly in light of recent studies that have shown that e-cig use leads to long term health problems.

“Our data show that Big Tobacco is luring young New Yorkers into nicotine addiction with flavors that appeal to kids. Adding the taste of bubble gum and cotton-candy to this unregulated product should not obscure how dangerous it can be,” she said in a statement.

The health department said one pod of an e-cigarette contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. The aerosol from heated e-liquids also contains several carcinogens that affect the lungs of the user and those around them, according to the department.

The Centers for Disease Control says there are at least 450 cases nationwide of e-cig related lung problems as of Sept. 6. 

The city has already taken several steps to curb electronic cigarette use among teens: it’s raised the minimum age of purchase to 21, prohibited the use of the devices in public places such as restaurants and required electronic cigarette retailers to be licensed. 

Barbot pushed for the passage of city legislation that would ban entirely the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes, which are marketed to younger users. This came a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed legislation that would ban those devices statewide. 

Ivan Pereira