Boston city councilors look to tackle teen vaping surge

BOSTON — Boston is in the midst of a public health crisis because of teen vaping, one city councilor says.

The council is looking at potential regulations on the smoking cessation products because they are increasingly getting into the hands of kids.

Last week, state lawmakers proposed hitting the vaping industry hard with a ban on flavored products and a stiff new tax.

"Overnight, Juuling has become a widespread addiction," said Matt O'Malley of the Boston City Council.

"The numbers of young people who are using them is growing every year. We saw the percentage double from 2017 to 2018."

O'Malley sounded the public health alarm Wednesday, calling on his colleagues to do something about what he says is becoming an epidemic in Boston: teen vaping.

Related: Vape shop owners say harsh regulations could put them out of business

"While there are some good efforts happening at the federal level. – the FDA is taking a look at it, the state has done some things – those studies haven't been completed yet," O'Malley said. "Some won't be until 2021, and the time to act is now."

O'Malley didn't have information on how much vaping is going on in Boston schools. However, Councilor Anissa Essaibi-George, a former high school teacher, says she is hearing, anecdotally, how vaping is both insidious and pervasive.

"Monitoring cigarette use was a daily struggle for me and my colleagues," Essaibi-George said, before talking about the issues with teen Juuling in schools.

"There's no odor, you can't smell it. And when it's hidden, that's a big concern."

O'Malley, a former smoker, acknowledges that, for part of the population, e-cigarettes should not be hidden.

"I certainly appreciate the need for smoking cessation products that help people that want to quit," he said.

Trouble is, O'Malley added, only three percent of adults are e-cigarette users.

>>>MORE: Efforts underway to stop vaping or juuling among teens in South Boston

The City Council didn't do anything Wednesday other than to agree to gather data to study the extent of the problem. From there it could do such things as ban flavored vape products – something state lawmakers are also considering.

"I think sometimes city action can help spur quicker state action," O'Malley said.