Michael Bloomberg pledges $160 million to stop kids from vaping, using e-cigarettes

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will spend $160 million over the next three years to try to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which Bloomberg Philanthropies says are specifically designed to entice kids to vape.

Bloomberg discussed why he chose to invest his money this way.

"All of a sudden, all of the progress we've made reducing smoking, particularly in kids, is in jeopardy because they start vaping," he said. "Vaping is as bad, if not worse, than smoking," Bloomberg said.

It's a sentiment that the New York City Department of Health backed up on Tuesday.

One pod of a popular e-cigarette, JUUL, can contain as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes.

"Our data show that Big Tobacco is luring young New Yorkers into nicotine addiction with flavors that appeal to kids," Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said. "Adding the taste of bubblegum and cotton-candy to this unregulated product should not obscure how dangerous it can be."

RELATED: New York issuing subpoenas to 3 companies amid vaping crisis

New York City also released new statistics regarding vaping use among children.

In 2018, one in 15 public middle school students (about 13,000 students, or 6.7%) reported currently using e-cigarettes, defined as having used an e-cigarette in the previous 30 days.

Current e-cigarette use was higher among older students, with 9% in 7th grade and 8.4% in 8th grade, compared to 2.6% in 6th grade.

E-cigarette use was much more common than cigarette use, nine times more common among 7th graders and six times more common among 8th graders.

In fact, 14.4% of middle school students say that they've tried e-cigarettes, and one out of every five high schoolers says that they've tried it.

"Kids don't realize that," Bloomberg said. "They like the flavored stuff, so that's how they're using it."

The health department went on to add that despite industry claims that e-cigarettes are only intended to help adults quit smoking, no e-cigarettes have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help people quit smoking. In fact, youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to later try cigarettes, the report stated.

Bloomberg Philanthropy wants the money to help advocacy efforts:
-Remove flavored e-cigarettes from the marketplace
-Ensure e-cigarettes are subjected to review before they reach the market and products now on the market are reviewed promptly
-End marketing practices that appeal to kids
-Stop online e-cigarette sales until sales to kids can be prevented from buying them

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