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Bloomberg bets on Vaping after giving $ 1 billion to fight tobacco

Michael R. Bloomberg, who has pledged nearly $ 1 billion to help anti-tobacco efforts, is now joining the campaign to combat gunfire, announcing a $ 160 million push to ban flavored e-cigarettes.

Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, said his Bloomberg Philanthropies would aim to ban the flavored e-cigarettes in at least 20 cities and states.

His announcement Tuesday was among a number of developments intended to increase the pressure and scrutiny of the gun industry, amid a sudden and largely unexplained public health scare that has linked gunfire to six deaths and hundreds of illnesses.

In New York, Prime Minister Andrew M. Cuomo promised Monday to introduce a bill to ban the sale of e-flavored cigarettes, and directed the State Department of Health to subpoenas that market or sell so-called thickeners, sometimes added to black market vaping products. . A state lab, which discovered the funds in vaping products collected from New York's patients, found that they were almost pure vitamin E acetate oil, which officials have said is a potential cause of the diseases.

On the same day, the American Medical Association called vaping "an urgent public health epidemic," and urged people to avoid the use of e-cigarette products until health officials learned more about the causes of the diseases, which have remained unresolved.

The latest death, linked to a serious lung disease believed to be related to gunfire, was announced Tuesday in Kansas. In addition, more than 450 cases of illness have been reported in 33 states, prompting urgent action by state lawmakers.

Michigan last week became the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. New York, Massachusetts and California have considered doing the same, with some New York lawmakers proposing to go even further, with a blanket ban on all vaping devices.

F.D.A. has authority to regulate e-cigarettes federally, but e-cigarette companies do not have to submit their products to the Public Health Bureau until May 2020.

"This is a daunting public health phenomenon," Cuomo said at a news conference Monday.

In New York, at least 41 people had fallen ill as of Monday, according to the state health department – up from 34 people just four days earlier.

Still, some lawmakers perceived the lack of urgency before the near-panic that started after the recent explosion of illnesses.

A bill banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes has been introduced in the New York State Legislature every year since 2017. The bill failed to pass until the legislative session ended in June, in part because of aggressive lobbying by tobacco and e cigarette industries, as well as a coalition of adult e-cigarette users who convinced lawmakers to abandon the bill, said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, one of the bill's sponsors.

Efforts may be better in January because of Cuomo's support and involvement of Mr. Bloomberg and his allies. Although Bloomberg did not specify which cities or states he would focus on, the foundation said in a news release that it would work with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Children and the Center for Disease Control over three years to end marketing practices that appeal to children, remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market and break online of e-cigarettes.

Mr. The Bloomberg Foundation has been fighting tobacco use around the world, funding media campaigns and encouraging banning tobacco advertising and tobacco product taxes.

In a opinion piece on Tuesday, Bloomberg, along with Matthew L. Myers, director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Children, stated that the fight against smoking and arms was inextricably linked. "We know Big Tobacco's playlist. We've seen this before," the men wrote.

Ms. Rosenthal, who also plans to introduce a bill to ban all e-cigarettes until they receive FDA approval, said the momentum had shifted " certainly "for the sake of prohibition.

" People teeter on, & # 39; This is the right thing to do & # 39; and & # 39; Maybe we should hand people over to their own devices. & # 39; But elected officials have a responsibility to protect public health, she said. "This is a good example of that."

Still, gun manufacturers have already indicated that they intend to fight attempts to curtail the industry.

Austin Finan a spokesman for Juul, said the company supported efforts to curb underage use. But he said allowing certain flavors, such as menthol, was important in helping smokers quit traditional cigarettes. Rosenthal's bill would only allow tobacco taste.

The New York State Vapor Association, which represents gun manufacturers and distributors, was less conciliatory. The group said on Monday that the central bank governor's proposal that people stop evaporating was superfluous, given the Ministry of Health's hypothesis that the diseases were linked to black market products.

"If a poor group of penicillin causes illness and death, the CDC does not recommend people to stop using all antibiotics," said Spike Babaian, a spokeswoman for the association. "After achieving low levels of smoking over time, these misleading statements will cost thousands of lives when New Yorkers return to cigarettes. "

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