By David Klepper and Jennifer Peltz ,Associated Press
(AP) — Vape shops in New York are scrambling to respond to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to prohibit the sale of flavored vaping products — a ban poised to take effect this week.
Cuomo, a Democrat, proposed the ban on Sunday. The emergency regulation will take effect immediately if approved as expected by the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council. Retailers will be given two weeks to remove merchandise from their shelves.
The new rules come as health officials investigate what might be causing hundreds of serious breathing illnesses in people who use e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. They have identified 380 confirmed and probable cases in 36 states and one territory, including six deaths.
Republican President Donald Trump has proposed a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products, but Cuomo said Monday the emergency regulations are warranted because the state can’t wait.
“Vaping we know is dangerous,” Cuomo said Monday on WNYC public radio. “At a minimum, it addicts young people to nicotine… I’ve grown tired and weary of waiting for the federal government to act responsibly, whether it’s on guns, on opioids or on the environment.”
On Monday shopkeeper Ashif Lakhani was minding the NYC Smoke Shop & Vape Shop, which now derives about 40% to 50% of its business from the sale of vaping products. He said he is convinced that the recent wave of vaping-related health problems stem from black-market products, not the ones on the shelves of the shop, which his brother owns.
He said he worries New York’s potential regulations will drive more vapers to the black market and/or online vendors — where he notes that merchants can’t see their customers while checking their ages.
“These kinds of stores, which do the age verification … should be given a fair chance, rather than this online stuff, which nobody knows who’s buying,” Lakhani said.
The ban would not impact tobacco- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, a detail that was criticized by health groups who said they worry young vapers will simply switch varieties to avoid the restrictions. It will include all types of flavored vaping products — including disposable and refillable devices.
Cuomo said many vaping flavors — including bubblegum and cotton candy — appear intended to appeal to younger smokers.
According to data from the state health department, nearly 40% of high school seniors and 27% of high school students overall in the state use e-cigarettes. High school use went from 10.5% in 2014 to 27.4% in 2018.
Other states are expected to consider their own restrictions on e-cigarettes. Earlier this month in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered that state’s health department to come out with emergency rules to prohibit flavored e-cigarette sales.
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews