MINEOLA, NY — As a mysterious vaping-related respiratory illness sickens hundreds nationwide, the Trump administration is reportedly planning to ban most flavored e-cigarettes. The move comes after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would propose new legislation to ban them at the state level.
Alex Azar, the federal Health and Human Services secretary, announced Wednesday that the FDA was finalizing plans that would take all flavored e-cigarette cartridges off the market, Axios reported. Only tobacco flavored cartridges would remain.
The move would be to discourage kids from vaping.
As of Thursday, more than 450 possible cases of e-cigarette-related lung illnesses have been reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cases span 33 states and five deaths have been confirmed in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Oregon.
So far, the federal investigation has not identified any specific substance or e-cigarette product linked to all cases. However, many patients said they’d used vape products with liquids containing cannabinoid products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
In New York, high levels of vitamin E acetate were found in nearly all cannabis-containing samples, health officials said. Vitamin E acetate oil is not an approved additive for vape products authorized by the state’s medical marijuana program, and it was not found in the nicotine-based products. The state investigation is focusing on the acetate as a potential cause to the mysterious lung illnesses.
On Monday, Cuomo, a Democrat, ordered the state Department of Health to subpoena three out-of-state companies that market and sell so-called “thickening agents” used in black market vaping products. The thickeners are marketed and readily available on the internet as a cheap, safe alternative that won’t adversely affect flavor or smell of existing products.
The governor also directed state health officials to issue emergency regulations mandating that warning signs be posted in all vape and smoke shops throughout the state. The health department will also launch a public service campaign to teach about the risks involved with vaping.
Flavoring e-liquids with mint chocolate, bubblegum and cherry cola is a key marketing tactic geared towards attracting kids and is largely behind the increase, Cuomo’s office said. Studies show nearly 78 percent of high school students — and 75 percent of middle school students — indicated they were exposed to pro-tobacco marketing in 2016.
The crack downs come after two teens were hospitalized on Long Island over the summer with mysterious vaping-related illnesses. Similar illnesses have sickened 41 across New York.
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