City Councilors Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) and Annissa Essaibi-George (at large) will lead an effort to curb what they said was a growing epidemic of teens using nicotine inhalers known as e-cigarettes.
"It's a public health crisis in Boston and we need to take action," O'Malley said.
O'Malley and Essaibi-George said vaping has exploded among teens, based not just on the flavors but on everything from "cute" packaging by marketing-savvy manufacturers to the fact that their "smoke" is virtually odorless - to the point where some kids sneak them into their classes for some quick puffs.
And it's time to cut the marketing nonsense that e-cigarettes are really a tool for adults to help quit smoking, when the evidence suggests teens are the biggest, and definitely the fastest growing, market, or that they are harmless, when the evidence suggests they carry their own health risks, O'Malley said.
"Only a product marketed to youth needs flavors like mango fruit or cream flavored nicotine," O'Malley said.
O'Malley and Essaibi-George said they want a hearing to meet with public-health experts to figure out the best strategies to keep e-cigarettes away from teens. He noted that other communities are looking at banning fruit-flavored vaping cartridges, but cautioned that online sales are booming, which means Boston might have to take other steps, such as training adults to help get teens to either stay away from e-cigarettes or quit them if they start.
The council approved their request to schedule a formal hearing at which public-health experts and the public can testify.
UPDATE: Juul replies:
We have taken aggressive action to combat underage use of our products, while preserving the opportunity for adult smokers to switch from combustible cigarettes, which contribute to over 9,000 deaths per year in Massachusetts.
Flavors are a complex issue. We believe flavors play a critical role in switching adult smokers from cigarettes because flavors can help smokers disassociate from the taste of tobacco and the odor of cigarettes; we see the results in our own behavioral research. While we do not and will not sell flavors which are clearly targeted to youth, we also understand that flavors that drive adults from cigarettes have the potential to appeal to youth. To strike the right balance between preserving accessibility for adult smokers, while restricting access for youth, we stopped the distribution of non-tobacco/non-menthol-based flavored pods to traditional retail. Currently, we sell these flavored products only through our ecommerce platform (JUUL.com), where we utilize industry-leading third-party age-verification and restrict bulk purchases.
We have led, and will continue to lead, the category and support category-wide actions to reverse the trend in youth use, while preserving this unprecedented opportunity for adult smokers, and we will continue to work with Massachusetts state and local policymakers in a transparent and collaborative fashion to achieve that goal.