As soon as Mayor Jim Kenney signs a bill approved Thursday by City Council, Philadelphia will join a growing list of cities acting to keep nicotine products away from children.
The bill bans sales of flavored and high-nicotine e-cigarettes at stores that teens and children are allowed to enter. Kenney, who introduced the measure with Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, is expected to sign the legislation by the end of the year.
“Philadelphia is taking the lead in protecting teens from dangerous and unregulated vaping products," Farley said in a statement.
Philadelphia is among the cities and states, including New Jersey, that have pursued restrictions on e-cigarettes amid a spate of vaping-related illnesses and deaths, and a sharp rise in vaping among teenagers.
Pennsylvania has reported 108 confirmed and probable cases, while 91 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in New Jersey. Each state has reported one death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked many of the cases to vitamin E acetate, an ingredient found in vaping pods containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The agency continues to investigate other ingredients that could explain cases where vitamin E acetate was not present.
Most of the people who have been sickened by vaping were otherwise healthy young adults.
Philadelphia’s new rules focus on flavored vaping liquids. These products — especially the candy and fruit flavors — have been popular among youths, helping drive major increases in teen vaping. That in turn has boosted nicotine addiction.
Stores that allow youths to enter, such as 7-Eleven and Wawa as well as smaller retailers, will not be allowed to sell flavored vaping pods — including mint and menthol — or those with high levels of nicotine.
Retailers have pushed back against e-cigarette restrictions, saying the law could hurt jobs and tax revenue.
One retailer who spoke at a Council committee hearing in November described the measure as a Band-Aid.
“What I see in Philadelphia is blocks and blocks in neighborhoods that have no stores left because they have no products to sell,” said Jeff Allen, owner of Allen Bros. Wholesale Distribution in Philadelphia, which distributes tobacco products. “Everything’s regulated. What gets me is when products are brought to other counties or states" where they can be sold legally rather than keeping the business in Philadelphia.
Once Kenney signs the bill, the health department will begin a three-month education period to alert retailers about the new rules.
For three months after the education period, stores that violate the law will be given a warning. After that, violators will be fined.