Flavored E-Cigarettes Face 'Emergency' Ban In New York

NEW YORK — Some e-cigarettes will soon go up in vapor in New York. State officials will take “emergency” action this week to ban flavored electronic cigarettes amid concerns about their widespread use by children, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

The state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council, an obscure 25-member regulatory panel, will move to impose the ban at an emergency meeting this week at the recommendation of Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, Cuomo said.

The panel’s regulations could go into effect in as soon as about two weeks, the Democratic governor said. That means the state will not have to wait for the Legislature to reconvene in January to get rid of flavored e-cigarettes, which officials worry are hooking an increasing number of youths.

“New York is confronting this crisis head-on and today we are taking another nation-leading step to combat a public health emergency,” Cuomo said in a statement.

New York will reportedly become the second state after Michigan to impose a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.

The state’s rules will not apply to tobacco and menthol flavors, which have been shown to help some people quit smoking regular cigarettes, Cuomo said.

State officials worry that other flavors such as “Bubblegum” and “Captain Crunch” are drawing teens to vaping even though the products are dangerous and addictive. Nearly one in five 15-to-17-year-olds say the flavors got them to try e-cigarettes and 27 percent said they kept using them becuase of the flavors, according to a 2017 state survey the governor’s office cited.

“These are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people,” Cuomo said.

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In addition to worries about a teen vaping epidemic, health officials have sounded the alarm in recent weeks about a rash of vape-related lung illnesses. The state Department of Health had recorded 64 such cases as of Friday, many of which have been linked to black-market marijuana vaping produts rather than commercial e-cigarettes, officials have said.

Anti-vaping advocates urged city and state officials to get menthol flavors off the shelves, too. Flavors Hook Kids NYC, a coalition of advocacy groups that opposes the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco, urged the City Council to take further action against menthols.

“No tobacco products should taste like menthol, mint or candy,” Andre Richardson, the campaign manager for Flavors Hook Kids, said in a statement. “… It is as urgent as ever for New York City to take action to protect kids.”

JUUL Labs, the vaping industry’s dominant player, says it has already stopped providing all flavors except tobacco and menthol to retailers as part of its efforts to curb underage e-cigarette use.

“We will review today’s announcement as we strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products,” JUUL spokesperson Austin Finan said in a statement.

JUUL says it has taken steps to ensure people buying its products online and in stores are of legal age, including the rollout of a checkout system that requires clerks to scan a valid ID. The firm also says it does not market to youth and got rid of its Instagram and Facebook accounts.

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