NY eyes plan to be first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state is taking steps to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes in the hopes of curbing a sharp rise in the use of vaping products by young people, the Cuomo administration said Friday.

“As the governor previously said, he’s very concerned about the rise in youth e-cigarette use and this administration is looking to do everything it can to curb this emerging public health issue,” Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said in an email.

The state Department of Health published its proposals for banning e-cigarettes in the New York State Registry on Wednesday. The agency later withdrew them to allow more time for legal review. The regulations will be republished soon, the agency said. They could then be adopted after a 60-day period of public comment.

The Cuomo administration’s plans come as the federal government plans to require strict limits on the retail sale of most flavored e-cigarettes.

Citing recent data regarding young people using e-cigarettes, Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in September that there’s an “epidemic of addiction” among youth, mainly driven by flavored products.

New York state health officials began tracking e-cigarette use in New York in 2014. Since then, use by high school youths increased from 10.5 percent to 27.4 percent in 2018, the health department said.

“Swift interventions are needed to protect our youth from a lifetime addiction to nicotine,” the agency said in its proposed rules for banning the sale of flavored vaping products.

Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, a vaping trade group, called New York’s proposal short-sighted and said it would be “devastating” to adult smokers trying to quit traditional cigarettes through use of flavored vapor products.

Although vaping is generally considered a less dangerous alternative to smoking traditional tobacco products, health officials have warned nicotine in e-cigarettes is harmful to developing brains.

Health advocates have worried about the popularity of vaping products among kids, especially e-cigarettes with mint, fruit, chocolate or any number of other flavorings sold online and at convenience stores, gas stations and vape shops. The minimum age to buy tobacco or e-cigarettes in New York state is 18.

The state health department said banning flavored e-cigarettes would mostly impact retail businesses whose main focus is selling vaping products. According to the New York State Vapor Association, there are at least 700 vape shops employing a total of 2,700 people across the state.

Michael Frennier, president of the New York State Vapor Association, said the problem isn’t vape shops but convenience stores that sell the Juul, an e-cigarette device resembling a thumb drive that’s popular with teens. He said teens like the Juul because it’s easy to conceal and packs a high nicotine punch, not because it’s flavored.

“The flavors are getting a bad rap,” Frennier said. “The kids don’t care about the flavors, they really don’t.”

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