On April 3, at 3:38 am, the New York State Assembly passed a budget that includes a ban on the sale of vapor products in flavors other than tobacco. The ban was passed with no public debate; the State Capitol has been on lockdown for weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Cuomo hates vaping and has made it his personal project to pass a flavor ban. Last fall, he directed the state health department to impose an emergency ban of flavored vaping products. That action was first put on hold by the courts, and eventually struck down entirely.
He finally got the opportunity to pass a flavor ban as part of the state’s budget, amid an unprecedented public health crisis. It’s incredible that a budget was even passed in such circumstances.
The flavor ban will take effect 45 days after the governor signed it, on May 18. The other parts of the law are effective July 1. They include:
* The prohibition does not apply to any flavored product that has received a premarket approval order (PMTA) from the Food and Drug Administration (currently no vaping products have).
* Pharmacies are no longer allowed to sell any tobacco or nicotine product that isn’t an approved smoking cessation therapy.
* Online sales are banned (vaping is folded into the same provision that bans shipment of cigarettes to consumers). The penalty for selling or shipping a vapor product to a consumer in NY is a Class A misdemeanor and carries a fine of $5,000 or $100 per vapor product.
* Coupons for vaping and tobacco products are banned.
* Vapor manufacturers must post a detailed ingredient list including a disclosure of “the nature and extent of investigations and research performed by or for the manufacturer concerning the effects on human health of such product or its ingredients.”
* Tobacco, nicotine and vapor products and marketing materials visible in storefronts and ads on exterior windows are banned within 1,500ft of a school (500ft for New York City).
This is a huge defeat for smokers who want to quit, because flavors are critical in making the transition to vaping.
Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives (CASAA) are urging New Yorkers to start stockpiling flavored products. The organization also predicts that an illicit market will be created by the prohibition of flavored vapes.
A statement on the CASAA website concluded:
“Governor Cuomo’s budget promises to send thousands of New Yorkers of all ages back to smoking. In the midst of a global pandemic involving a respiratory illness that kills people who have underlying conditions such as COPD, asthma, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and other illnesses attributed to smoking, the actions of the legislature and Governor Cuomo are shameful.”
Photo by Helen Redmond