Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist who has financed efforts to combat tobacco use around the world for years, has a new target: e-cigarettes in the United States.

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Tuesday it would spend $160 million over three years to try to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which, it said, are specifically designed to entice kids to vape.

The vaping initiative is Bloomberg’s first anti-tobacco effort aimed at the United States, according to officials of Bloomberg Philanthropies. They said the money will be used to press local, state and federal governments to ban flavored e-cigarettes; to push the Food and Drug Administration to be more aggressive in reviewing vaping products and imposing standards on e-cigarette products; and to back local and state governments that might face industry opposition or lawsuits for supporting e-cigarette bans.

“E-cigarette companies and the tobacco companies that back them are preying on America’s youth,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “The result is an epidemic that is spiraling out of control and putting kids in danger of addiction and serious health problems.”

The Bloomberg announcement comes as federal health authorities are investigating five deaths from a mysterious lung illness tied to vaping. There are now 450 possible cases in 33 states and one territory. While many of the cases appear to involve marijuana products, a smaller number of patients say they used only nicotine e-cigarettes, federal officials have said.

Matt Myers, president of the nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which will coordinate the Bloomberg effort, said the $160 million from Bloomberg will “allow us to transform what is going on” in the battle over e-cigarettes. By year end, he predicted, “a significant number” of major cities will be considering e-cigarette prohibitions and several state legislatures will probably follow.

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Laurie McGinley – Washington Post – September 9, 2019.

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