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Parents, Advocates Protest Teen Vaping Outside JUUL Offices In Manhattan

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Dozens of parents and anti-vaping advocates held a protest Tuesday outside the JUUL offices in Manhattan.

Critics want the City Council to restrict the e-cigarette company from selling flavored products, which they say attract kids.

"Kids start with flavored pods," said 16-year-old Phillip Fuhrman, who is now vape-free after taking his first puff of a JUUL two years ago. "When my mom took my first one away from me and I started to feel the withdrawal symptoms, that was the first time I realized I was addicted."

His mother, Dorian Fuhrman, co-founded Parents Against Vaping.

"There is a youth epidemic of vaping right now, and unless we ban the flavors, we're going to see more and more kids addicted to nicotine," she said.

"I'm trying to help my friends who are already addicted get off and help younger people who haven't started yet not even touch it," said her son.

The group is backing a bill sponsored by City Councilman Mark Levine.

"[The bill] would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in New York City as a way to protect our kids," he said.

Last November, JUUL announced it was pulling its flavored pods from more than 90,000 stores nationwide.

"We have never marketed to youth, do not sell flavors like cotton candy or bubble gum, and strongly advocated for Tobacco 21 legislation here in New York. In November 2018 we stopped selling non-tobacco and non-menthol-based flavors to traditional retail stores, which represented 50% of our revenue at that time. All of our non-traditional tobacco-flavored pods are now exclusively sold through our ecommerce platform, which features an industry-leading, third-party, age-verification system that puts every purchase through a rigorous, multi-step process to ensure that the customer is 21 or older and restricts bulk purchasing. We offer these products in this limited, secure way because they play an important role in helping smokers switch by providing users with a taste and aroma different than traditional tobacco," a spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.

Vaping advocates also attended today's rally to share their perspective.

"The positive effects on adults overwhelmingly go over any negative effects for youth," said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association.

Matthew Elliot said vaping helped him stop smoking cigarettes after 15 years.

"Obviously, we don't want the youth to use these vapor products, but we can't take them away from the adults that help them quit smoking," he said.

All this comes just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it is investigating nearly 100 possible cases of severe lung illnesses involving e-cigarette users, especially teens and young adults.

Over the weekend, the CDC said it's looking into 94 cases in 14 states from June 28, 2019 to August 15, 2019.

The New Jersey Department of Health is investigating nine severe lung illnesses in people who have vaped, and in New York there are 11 reported cases. Both states have issued health alerts.

"Like any health-related events reportedly associated with the use of vapor products, we are monitoring these reports and we have robust safety monitoring systems in place. We understand those events are being reviewed by health authorities," a JUUL spokesperson added about the CDC investigation. "Reporting also suggests the teenagers were vaping both nicotine and THC (a Schedule 1, controlled substance that we do not sell). Regardless, those reports reaffirm the need to keep all tobacco and nicotine products out of the hands of youth through significant regulation on access and enforcement. We also must ensure illegal products, such as counterfeit, copycat, and those that deliver controlled substances, stay out of the market."

Experts say a lot more research still needs to be done to find the long term health effects of these products, especially when teens vape with THC to get high.

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