Mike Bloomberg’s philanthropic arm is shelling out $160 million to keep kids from vaping

As 33 states investigate roughly 450 lung illnesses that may be associated with vaping, the billionaire former New York City mayor and founder of Bloomberg, Michael Bloomberg,  is committing $160 million to combat vaping.

Bloomberg has long been an advocate for anti-smoking campaigns and has spent millions on getting folks to quit smoking. Now he’s turning his attention to vaping, the new scourge of teens everywhere.

What Bloomberg hopes to accomplish is nothing short of a ban on flavored e-cigarettes and the complete cessation of marketing vaping products to minors.

Companies like Juul, which Bloomberg Philanthropies  singles out by name, are already taking steps to curb the use of vaping products among minors, according to their own statements.

However, these recent efforts by Juul to change its marketing tune, may be too little, too late. There are roughly 3.6 million middle school and high school students in the U.S. who are vaping, accounting for one-third of all e-cigarette users, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies.

It’s no secret that Juul used to market heavily to young adults in its early promotional materials and there are still social media accounts dedicated to the company’s product filled with user-generated memes and short videos that appeal to kids. Earlier this year, Juul was accused of using the tactics honed by big tobacco companies to hawk its own products to susceptible populations.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative is launching even as federal health and consumer protection agencies take a closer look at the products.

In early September, the CDC urged people to stop vaping as it investigated a rash of lung illnesses cropping up among e-cigarette users around the country.

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration put Juul, the leading manufacturer of e-cigarettes and pods, on  notice for making false claims about the safety of its products and a continued effort to target teen users.

“The federal government has the responsibility to protect children from harm, but it has failed – so the rest of us are taking action. I look forward to partnering with advocates in cities and states across the country on legislative actions that protect our kids’ health. The decline in youth smoking is one of the great health victories of this century, and we can’t allow tobacco companies to reverse that progress,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies founder and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases, in a statement.

With the $160 million commitment, Bloomberg Philanthropies and its partners will look to achieve five main goals: the removal of flavored e-cigarettes from the market; ensure that e-cigarette products are reviewed by the FDA before they reach the market; stop companies from marketing to kids; halt online sales until a satisfactory method of age verification can be developed; and track underage e-cigarette usage.

“It is important to gain a deeper understanding of the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes on youth, and the CDC Foundation’s focus is on gathering and evaluating data to better inform effective policies,” said Judith Monroe, MD, chief executive officer of the CDC Foundation. “We appreciate the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies and partners in helping tackle this epidemic to protect our youth.”

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