Cuomo moves to ban sale of flavored e-cigarettes in New York state
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that he's moving to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes in the state, labeling it a public health emergency and accusing manufacturers of targeting young people.
The governor announced an executive action that calls for state health officials to meet this week to create regulations and ban the sale of flavored vapor products.
"New York is confronting this crisis head-on, and today we are taking another nation-leading step to combat a public health emergency," Cuomo was quoted as saying in a press release from his office. "Manufacturers of fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes are intentionally and recklessly targeting young people, and today we're taking action to put an end to it. At the same time, unscrupulous stores are knowingly selling vaping products to underage youth - those retailers are now on notice that we are ramping up enforcement and they will be caught and prosecuted."
Cuomo's office says that state Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker will hold an emergency meeting this week with the Public Health and Health Planning Council on the ban of flavored e-cigarettes.
Cuomo's office also says he is directing state police and the Department of Health to immediately partner to ramp up enforcement efforts against retailers who sell to underage youth, with the possibility of criminal penalties. And Cuomo says he will advance legislation to ban deceptive marketing of e-cigarettes to teens and children.
In announcing the action, Cuomo sharply criticized the flavors that are for sale, like bubble gum and cotton candy. "These are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people," he said.
The ban would not impact tobacco- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, but Cuomo said the Department of Health would continue evaluating and that could change.
One vape shop owner in Hicksville says he agrees with cracking down on selling to minors, but he disagrees with banning flavored vape products.
"We shouldn't necessarily be banning flavors. There are many, many hundreds of thousands of adults nationwide that depend on them for not going back to combustible tobacco," says Matt Flax, owner of VaporVille. He's concerned the ban would hurt his business.
"If the flavors get banned, it's the bread and butter of our businesses and our livelihood, so it would hurt every vape shop out there and you would see shops close left and right," Flax says.
The American Lung Association criticizes Cuomo for not wanting to ban menthol-flavored vape products -- but the governor says that flavor may help smokers quit menthol cigarettes.
Spokespeople for the governor say that if vape flavors are banned, shops will have two weeks to pull the products off of their shelves.
Earlier this month, Cuomo signed an order directing state agencies to launch education awareness programs on vaping and smoking cessation, and also directed the Department of Health to investigate companies that produce vaping substances.
It comes amid warnings from federal health officials that vaping could be dangerous. U.S. health officials have identified 380 cases of illness in 36 states and one territory, including six deaths. No single device or ingredient has been tied to all the illnesses, and officials say that many of those who were sickened said they'd been vaping THC.
Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.