“We are currently facing a national public health epidemic,” Southampton Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nicholas Dyno said. “In the past few years, vaping has increased significantly, especially with young people, and Southampton children are not immune. We must work together to end this health crisis, and as a district, we believe joining this lawsuit is just one step.”
The epidemic has had a direct effect on Southampton schools, the district said; to combat the usage of e-cigarettes among teenagers, the Southampton School District has been forced to divert resources to monitor and police vaping in schools, as well as implement programming to educate students on the dangers of e-cigarettes, the release said.
“We are taking this crisis head on,” said Southampton High School Principal Dr. Brian Zahn. “The lives of our students depend on it.”
The district has taken a proactive approach to educating its community on vaping, including hosting two joint town halls with East Hampton High School and traveling to Washington, D.C., to present to members of Congress.
Southampton High School principal Dr. Brian Zahn and Southampton High School senior and founder of the Southampton chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions Lauren Heaney traveled to Washington, D.C. in December 2019 to speak to members of Congress about the dangers of vaping.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke out on vaping on Jan. 17 after the third and fourth cases of vaping related deaths were reported in New York: “The State Department of Health has confirmed two more deaths in New York due to vaping-associated illness: an adult female in her twenties from New York City and an adult female in her fifties from Ontario County,” Cuomo said. “While State DOH is continuing its investigation, they have determined both deaths are vaping-related based on an extensive review, bringing the total number of vaping-related deaths in New York to four.
“These deaths are tragic — and they are also preventable. We know smoking and nicotine are dangerous, and it’s becoming tragically clearer by the day that vaping is too,” Cuomo said. “State DOH and its Wadsworth Center Laboratory are doing groundbreaking work getting to the bottom of this unacceptable situation and we will continue using every tool at our disposal until these illnesses and deaths stop. In the meantime our message on vaping remains unchanged: if you don’t know what you’re smoking, don’t smoke it.”
In December, Cuomo announced the 15th proposal of his 2020 State of the State agenda: legislation banning all flavored nicotine vaping products including menthol flavors and vaping advertisements aimed at youth.
The legislation would also authorize the State Department of Health to regulate the sale of chemicals used in vaping-related products and ban the sale of vaping product carrier oils deemed to be a public health risk, Cuomo said. Finally, the legislation would prohibit the online, phone and mail order sale of e-cigarettes; only registered retailers would be allowed to purchase e-cigarettes using those methods.
“Vaping is a public health crisis, claiming too many lives and making countless others sick in a short period of time,” Cuomo said. “The problem is made worse by unscrupulous vaping companies who are targeting young people with candy flavored products like Cotton Candy and Bubble-gum and other marketing ploys. While the federal administration continues its empty rhetoric on an issue impacting more than a quarter of all high school students, in New York we’re using every tool at our disposal to keep help children safe and stop them from forming an unhealthy and potentially deadly lifelong addiction.”
Cuomo’s legislation would ban the sale of all flavored nicotine vaping products, including menthol — an extension ongoing efforts to reduce youth use of both tobacco and vaping products.
Nearly 40 percent of 12th grade students and 27 percent of all high school students are now using e-cigarettes, with the increase largely driven by flavored e-liquids used in vaping devices, a release from the governor’s office said. With ban, New York aims to limit the use of flavorings in all vaping products and provide support to local communities fighting the epidemic, a release from Cuomo’s office said.
The legislation will ban all vaping-related ads targeted to youth, including advertising in newspapers and magazines, as well as in digital formats in periodicals, social media and on websites with significant youth viewership. Advertisers will also not be allowed to make vaping product safety claims or pitch vaping products as smoking cessation options without FDA-approval, the release said.
Also, following the hospitalizations and deaths involving patients who had reported a history of using e-cigarettes or vaping products, Vitamin E acetate — which is sometimes used as an e-liquid diluent — has been identified as a chemical of concern. Cuomo’s legislation empowers the Department of Health to ban the sale of vaping carrier oils that include chemicals or ingredients that when inhaled through a vaping device are deemed to be dangerous and a significant public health risk.
In 2017, Cuomo expanded the Clean Indoor Air Act to prohibit e-cigarette use in nearly every workplace to protect workers and the public from harmful secondhand tobacco smoke and vaping aerosols. In 2019, e-liquid retailers were required to register with the Department of Taxation and Finance and a 20 percent sales tax on e-liquids will be imposed. In November of 2019, the legal age for purchasing tobacco and e-cigarette products was raised to 21, further discouraging youth from accessing the products; DTF will triple the number of regulatory inspections of retailers authorized to sell tobacco products from 2018.
On Jan. 7, the CDC reported 57 deaths caused by vaping-related illnesses in 27 states and the District of Columbia. More than 2,600 hospitalizations have been reported nationwide. The outbreak of vaping-related illnesses arrived in June 2019 and hit its peak in September before reported cases started to decline.
Symptoms of vaping-related illnesses include:
- Respiratory symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, stomach pain or diarrhea.
- Nonspecific constitutional symptoms, like fever, chills or weight loss.
- Some patients have reported that their symptoms developed over a few days, while others have reported that their symptoms developed over several weeks.