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Sweeney Challenges Tobacco Companies to Take Immediate Action to Curb Vaping by Young People

Meets with Officials from Juul, Altria & Reynolds to Discuss Immediate Response to Surging Medical Crisis

Trenton – Senate President Steve Sweeney today met with officials from the three top tobacco companies, where he challenged them to take immediate action to reduce the use of e-cigarettes and other electronic smoking devices by young people.

Senator Sweeney summoned officials from Juul, Altria and Reynolds to a meeting in Trenton, where he urged them to accept their share of responsibility for the burgeoning public health crisis, to fully cooperate with medical investigations, to reexamine their marketing practices and to do “anything and everything” to protect young people from the immediate and long-term dangers of vaping.

“I remain committed to a full ban on e-cigarettes and other vaping products, but there is an urgency to this crisis and a need for an immediate response,” said Senator Sweeney, referring to his proposal for a phased-in prohibition on all electronic smoking devices. “But we cannot wait for legislative action.  I demanded that the companies be part of the solution, today, not three months from now, not three weeks from now, but immediately.”

Senator Sweeney also asked the companies to provide their own input and ideas on how to respond to the vaping crisis, particularly how to reduce usage by young people.

The use of e-cigarettes by teenagers and young adults has surged in recent years, despite a decrease in overall tobacco use. Since 2014, e-cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product among the country’s youth.

The use of electronic smoking devices among U.S. middle and high school students increased 900 percent from 2011 to 2015, and grew by 78 percent among high school students during the past year alone. A reported 3.6 million young people are currently using e-cigarettes, including one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students.

“There are some unanswered questions, but there is no doubt that there is a medical crisis tied to vaping and that most of the victims are young people,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “We also know that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of young people who are vaping, which is a trend that puts our youth at risk.

“The tobacco companies claim that these devices are not marketed to young people and that they are intended to help people stop smoking. The facts don’t back-up those claims, and the consequences for our youth have become tragically apparent. We should not allow another generation of young people to become addicted to tobacco products at a time when the dangers are fully known.”

Senator Sweeney noted that a 2015 report from the National Health Interview Survey found that 40 percent of young e-cigarette users were never smokers before trying e-cigarettes. Furthermore, the FDA recently criticized Juul for illegally marketing e-cigarettes as less harmful than cigarettes.

Nationally, at least 380 cases of lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarette products have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control, including seven confirmed deaths. In New Jersey, three verified cases of vaping-related illnesses and 19 suspected cases are under investigation.