NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to enact a statewide ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes amid growing health concerns connected to vaping, especially among young people.
The Democrat announced Sunday that the state health commissioner would be making a recommendation this week to the state Public Health and Health Planning Council. The council can issue emergency regulations that would go into effect as soon as they are voted on and start being enforced in as soon as two weeks, following a short grace period for retailers, officials said.
In announcing the action, Cuomo sharply criticized the flavors that are for sale, like bubble gum and cotton candy.
“These are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people,” he said.
Officials pointed to a significant increase of e-cigarettes by young people, which they said was driven by the flavors.
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.
Nationwide, the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed traditional cigarette usage continuing to fall for students in 6th to 12th grade but vaping continuing to surge higher.
The biggest player in the industry, Juul Labs Inc., said it was reviewing the announcement, but agreed with the need for action.
The ban would not impact tobacco- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, but Cuomo said the Department of Health would continue evaluating and that could change.
Not including menthol brought criticism for Cuomo from some quarters.
Cuomo “had the opportunity to take decisive action, but instead left menthol e-cigarettes on the marketplace,” said Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, in an email statement. “While today’s announcement was well-intentioned, it will drive our youth to use menthol flavored products in even greater numbers.”
Cuomo signed legislation earlier this year raising the statewide smoking age to 21, and earlier this month signed a mandate that requires state anti-tobacco campaigns to also include vaping.
Vaping is also under a federal spotlight , as health authorities look into hundreds of breathing illnesses reported in people who have used e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
In his first public comments on vaping, President Donald Trump proposed a similar federal ban last week.
The FDA has been able to ban vaping flavors since 2016, but hasn’t taken the step, with officials looking into whether flavors could help cigarette smokers to quit.
The global market is estimated to have a value of as much as $11 billion. The industry has spent a lot of money in states around the country to lobby against state-level flavored e-cigarette bans, in states including Hawaii, California, Maine and Connecticut.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this month ordered that state’s health department to come out with emergency rules to prohibit flavored e-cigarette sales.
Juul reiterated Sunday the agreeable stance it had taken following Trump’s proposal.
In an emailed statement, spokesman Austin Finan said, “We strongly agree with the need for aggressive category-wide action on flavored products,” and “will fully comply with local laws and the final FDA policy when effective.”
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