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Cuomo once again presses for flavored vaping ban

Lindsay Fox

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again pressing for a ban on flavored tobacco-based vaping products, saying he hopes a law is passed in the next month. 

Cuomo and his health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, tried to ban the products in New York last fall after a widespread illness associated with vaping killed 60 people, including four in New York.

But the emergency order by a state panel was stopped in court after the vaping industry sued.

Now, Cuomo has proposed a ban, along with comprehensive regulations, in his budget plan. He said it’s estimated that 40% of 12th-graders and 27% of all high school students are vaping, a 160% increase in the U.S. in just four years.

“This is literally a matter of life and death," Cuomo said. "Literally every day, more kids are getting addicted. … One way or the other, by April 1, this has to become law, and there is no excuse for it.” 

The measure would end the sale of all flavored products, including menthol, and discontinue all advertisements, including social media ads that Cuomo said are targeted toward teens. The bill also bans the sale of vaping products at stores that include pharmacies, as well as online sales, where Cuomo said teens can often circumvent age requirements to get the products. 

The bill also would outlaw the use of so-called carrier oils in vaping products, including vitamin E acetate and castor oil. Those additions to vaping products are believed to be connected to the vaping sickness epidemic.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said after 30 years of measures to curb the use of combustible cigarettes, the state was finally on its way to have the first generation of nonsmokers. But he said the growing use of tobacco-based vaping products have upended that goal.

“The kids that they are addicting are the kids who never would have smoked,” said Myers, who accused the e-cigarette industry of “using the exact same tactics” that regular cigarette manufacturers used to appeal to children, including advertising aimed at young people.

The vaping industry maintains that the products, including the flavored varieties, are designed for adults, many of whom are trying to quit smoking regular cigarettes.

The sponsors of similar legislation in the Assembly and Senate to ban flavored e-cigarettes said they agree with the governor. Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said they would like to see the bills passed even before the budget is done.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.