N.J. should ban flavored e-cigarettes to curb youth vaping, task force urges

A 15-year-old in Cambridge, Mass., shows off her vaping device in 2018. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

A 15-year-old in Cambridge, Mass., shows off her vaping device in 2018. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

New Jersey may become the latest state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, as officials look for ways to curb youth vaping and combat the national outbreak of a mysterious illness related to e-cigarette use.

The ban was one of several recommendations made by a task force Gov. Phil Murphy created three weeks ago to investigate e-cigarette use in the state.

“I want New Jersey to not just react to current events but to use these events to craft thoughtful and solid policies that will protect our residents for years to come,” Murphy said at a press conference Thursday.

The governors of Michigan and New York have taken executive action to ban flavored e-cigarettes, but Murphy called on New Jersey lawmakers to enact the ban through legislation.

State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, previously called for a complete ban on vaping in the state, which goes further than the prohibition on flavored e-cigarettes recommended by the task force.

Proponents of vaping have said that they are being unfairly targeted because of the outbreak of the illness, which may be caused by illicit products, and that e-cigarettes have helped many longtime smokers wean themselves off combustible cigarettes.

But critics say vaping companies use flavors to market their products to kids and get them hooked on e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine.

“My grandson told me about what they do in his school, that they are vaping in the hallways, in the restrooms,” said State Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer. “And so many of the kids are addicted, they can’t sit in their seats for more than 20 minutes or so.”

The task force report suggested several other ways to reduce rising rates of e-cigarette use in New Jersey, including increasing penalties for sales to people under 21, restricting online sales, and expanding the tax on vaping products.

The report comes as the country grapples with cases of vaping-related lung illness. Mayo Clinic experts said Thursday in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that lung injuries in 17 patients were consistent with toxic chemical burns.

One New Jersey woman has died as a result of the illness. According to the state Department of Health, there are 14 confirmed or likely cases of the illness in New Jersey and another 32 under investigation.

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