Philadelphia is stepping up its efforts to keep tobacco products away from youth with a new law that restricts sales of flavored e-cigarettes.
Mayor Jim Kenney on Wednesday signed a bill banning the sale of flavored vaping pods — including mint and menthol in addition to teen-oriented candy flavors — and those with high levels of nicotine at stores that teens and children are allowed to enter, such as 7-Eleven and Wawa, as well as smaller retailers.
During a signing ceremony at City Hall, Kenney said the new law is necessary to curtail a dangerous trend — rising rates of vaping among teenagers, while teen cigarette smoking is at an all-time low.
“While teens are less likely than ever to smoke cigarettes, many are experimenting” with other flavored tobacco products, Kenney said. “They try vaping, get addicted to nicotine, and move on to other tobacco products.”
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The city plans to phase in the new rules, starting with a three-month education period to alert retailers about the change. For three months afterward, stores that violate the law will be given a warning. After that, violators will be fined. The city may revoke tobacco sales licenses from retailers with repeat violations.
Kenney also signed a law banning flavored mini-cigars, or cigarillos, which come in flavors popular among youth, such as French vanilla and tropical fruit. The ban takes effect after a 60-day notification period.
He also issued an executive order declaring the city’s parks and recreation centers smoke-free and vape-free.
With its new e-cigarette law, Philadelphia joins a growing list of 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 111 cases of severe lung illness confirmed or suspected to be related to vaping, and New Jersey has reported 96 cases. Each state has reported one death.
The illnesses have primarily been among young adults who are otherwise healthy, drawing attention to the sharp rise in youth e-cigarette use.
“We are seeing an epidemic of youth vaping in the United States,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.
Vitamin E acetate, an ingredient used in vaping liquids containing THC, has been linked to many of the patient samples tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to look for other ingredients or products making people sick.
The CDC has urged people to not use THC vaping pods, especially those bought on the street, online, or second-hand from friends.