It’s official. Flavored E-Cigs are Out in NYS. Emergency Regulations were enacted after the NYS Public and Health Planning Council voted to ban the flavored smokeless tobacco products after Governor Cuomo’s direction to take immediate action. This ban is effective immediately, leaving vape shops across the Island, and the state, with tons of inventory they now cannot sell. And, in a mere fourteen days, a ban on menthol flavored vapes will be considered by New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. While the ban on flavors other than menthol is effective immediately, the Department of health is providing retailers with a two-week grace period before enforcement efforts begin in earnest.
According to the Governor’s report, the ban of flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine e-liquid was precipitated by the need to stop children from using these products and becoming addicted to nicotine. While President Trump is also considering a Federal ban, NY’s Governor Cuomo had this to say, “New York is not waiting for the federal government to act, and by banning flavored e-cigarettes we are safeguarding the public health and helping prevent countless young people from forming costly, unhealthy and potentially deadly life-long habits.”
Up until now, these products had been available in a plethora of flavors with colorful names. The Family Smoking and Tobacco Prevention Act of 2009 enacted by Congress had already created a Federal ban on flavored cigarettes. This included clove cigarettes, and even tobacco-free clove cigarettes. The only non-natural tobacco flavor permitted under this ban is menthol. Now, New York is the first to take measures to do the same for vapes. “It is undeniable that vaping companies are deliberately using flavors like bubblegum, Captain Crunch and cotton candy to get young people hooked on e-cigarettes – it’s a public health crisis and it ends today,” were Governor Andrew Cuomo’s words.
“The alarmingly high numbers of young people in New York State who are using vape products is nothing short of a public health crisis,” according to NYS DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. NYS DOH data suggests that a whopping 40%of 12th graders, and 27% of high school students, are presently using e-cigarette products. While this may alarm most readers, there is a good side to all of this: The rate of smoking dropped from about one in four back in 2000, to one in 24, in 2016. While tobacco use fell, vaping rose steadily in the same time period.
Kids, as well as just adults, believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking. In fact, most vape shops promote vaping as a harm reduction strategy for smokers. A 2017 NYS survey showed that roughly one in five adolescents indicated that the flavor was what got them started using such products. Of course, the fact that vaping has been promoted as a safer alternative to smoking likely had a significant role in its rise in popularity among the age group, just as it has for adults.
In the major media outlets, there has been a significant muddying of the issue of deadly vapes. Most local new channels have been conflating nicotine vapes and the illicit THC vapes that have been causing widespread death and serious health issues. By now, it’s been all but clearly established that the cause of the recent rash of illness was, in fact, black market THC vapes, purportedly containing THC, but actually containing tocopherol acetate (vitamin E) as an unlisted “cutting agent.” These fake vapes were often labeled to mimic well-known brands that are available in states where THC is legal at the state level.
Most states witnessing the recent vaping health crisis did not allow THC to be consumed,or sold, legally. In Colorado, with its burgeoning THC and cannabis market,there were no reported cases. However, California is not so lucky, reporting vape-related sickness. So if black market “THC” vapes were largely the culprit, why is that no longer the focus of news reports? States with “decriminalized” marijuana and cannabis acknowledge the demand, yet keep the supply illicit. This is a recipe for disaster.
Is the new NYS ban going to create a black market for nicotine vapes, like the demand for THC vapes in states no legal THC alternatives has? It’s quite vexing; the solution to the acute health crisis traced back to black market THC is to…create yet another black market for an entire class of nicotine vapes.
While use of vaping products by young people is alarming, now adolescents and adults alike may turn to the same black market drug dealers that distributed and sold the fake THC vaping products to find flavored nicotine vapes, potentially exposing them to the same hazard of untested and unregulated illicit products. Now the cartels can also offer fake e-cigs among their questionable wares. How did this address the health crisis again?
True; kids vaping is a health crisis. However, the acute health crisis involving deaths and breathing difficulties is another issue, entirely. This measure only serves to further push the issue of dangerous fake THC vapes under the rug. A large part of the recent spate of deaths can be directly attributed to “decriminalization” efforts regarding marijuana, as well as marijuana prohibition. There is a demand for these products among adults, however keeping them illegal or “decrimmed” only fosters the blossoming of an illegal trade in such products.
Adults should have the freedom to vape or smoke tobacco, or even marijuana if they wish to do so. In what we like to pride ourselves as the “Freest Country On Earth,” it doesn’t make sense to treat adults like kids, enacting law after law regulating behavior. Americans 100 years ago would have balked at the notion. Of course, far less was known about the hazards of tobacco then, but it’s the principle. Americans of legal age should be able to vape bubble gum or blueberry flavored e-cigs if they so desire. While it is the place to enact regulations on such items against their use by kids and adolescents, blanket bans on sales keeping adults from buying is without merit.
Many adults claim to have kicked their smoking habit by vaping, a supposedly “safer” practice that does not produce combustion by-products like smoking does. While newscasters fall over themselves on the networks gushing with warning about how we just don’t know the hazards of vaping yet, many feel that in any case, it’s a safer way to take nicotine or THC, than smoking.
Vaping has been with us, as a culture, for well over ten years now; that includes vaping nicotine; that includes vaping THC. And, in that time, we haven’t seen death and destruction of users. That is, until recently. And, attributing the cause to nicotine vapes, or even regulated and tested THC vapes, when it seems to have been fake THC vapes all along, is dubious, and contradicts the evidence.
The Governor’s executive order will also raise the age for sale of e-cigarette products from 18 to 21. State Police will also be conducting sting operations, partnering with the state DOH, checking to see if vape stores will sell to patrons under 18 years of age. There will be both civil, as well as criminal, penalties for those stores found to be skirting the law. Certainly, there will be legal challenges raised by some of the vape store owners. Sting operations, as well as raising the age to purchase, cannot be contested, however, the blanket ban on flavored e-cigs almost certainly will.
Will the vape stores go out of business? That would push more users to seek these products online, where product safety is questionable,and age verification is more difficult. With over 25 vape shops on Staten Island alone, it’s been a great way for working people to start their own businesses and thrive. With the app and contractor economy in full swing, there are fewer and and fewer ways for a person to earn a living that can support a family without struggling. Below, we’ve interviewed a number of vape store owners about these issues (pending).