The head of the city's health department traveled to the nation's capital Thursday to call on the Food and Drug Administration to step up its regulations of e-cigarettes. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Mary Bassett says the city has its eye on a new kind of cigarette.
"We have been very concerned about the emergence of e-cigarettes," she said.
On Thursday, the city's health commissioner traveled to Washington, where she joined with other municipal health chiefs to call on the FDA to increase its regulation of e-cigarettes.
Late last month, the FDA started doing just that by proposing a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18.
For Bassett, it's a good first step, but she said the FDA needs to also crack down on marketing campaigns aimed at enticing people to start what is known as vaping.
"These are products that are nicotine vehicles, nicotine is a highly addictive substance, delivered in a vapor of unknown composition," Bassett said. "It's a basically unregulated industry, and it's being heavily marketed, and marketed to young people.
Those campaigns include the marketing of e-cigarettes that taste like bubble gum. According to health officials, that's a problem because they fear vaping could erase efforts that have led to a decline in traditional smoking.
"We urge the FDA and the states to not allow e-cigarette marketing to undo decades of our efforts to de-glamorize smoking," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding of the Los Angeles Department of Health.
The jury is still out on the health effects of vaping and whether e-cigarettes serve as a gateway to tobacco smoking.
In the city, e-cigarettes are not allowed to be sold to anyone under 21, and they're banned in restaurants, bars, offices and parks.
The debate over e-cigarettes is really just beginning, and it's likely over the next months and years that New York City will not only continue to crack down on the product, but ask the federal government to do the same.