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Gov. Cuomo Issues Executive Order To Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes In NY

WAMC file photo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order to direct the state health department to ban all flavored electronic cigarettes, in response to a vaping heath emergency that has sickened hundreds and killed six people.

The lung ailment, which has been contacted by 64 New Yorkers, has so far been linked to black market marijuana vaping products that also contain liquid vitamin E oil. But the Democrat says vaping of any substance is not a healthy practice and is addicting an alarming number of young people. Cuomo says vaping is better than smoking combustible cigarettes, but not by much.

“Vaping is better than smoking. Technically yes, but so what? Smoking is terrible,” said Cuomo. “It is virtually a high-risk, potential death situation. Well, vaping is better than that. Yes, but again that is not saying much.”

Cuomo says vaping should only be used by adults who have unsuccessfully tried other methods to quit smoking, including nicotine patches, nicotine-laced gum, and therapy. 

Cuomo says his health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, will direct the Public Health and Health Planning Council to take steps to impose a ban on flavored e-cigarettes that are attractive to children.

“The flavored products are highly attractive to young people. Names like, 'Bubblegum,' 'Cotton Candy,' 'Captain Crunch,' which was my favorite. These are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people,” Cuomo said. 

Menthol flavored e-cigarettes will still be allowed to be sold.

The American Cancer Society and the American Hearth Association both issued statements Sunday afternoon saying the ban does not go far enough, and that menthol and mint-flavored e-cigarettes should also be included, because they are also attractive to children.

Health Commissioner Zucker says there is some evidence that menthol flavors help people who are trying to quit regular cigarettes and have been unsuccessful with other methods, so he is not ready to ban those flavors.

The ban could take effect in as soon as two weeks. President Donald Trump has also said he wants to direct the federal Food and Drug Administration to ban flavored e-cigarettes nationwide, but Cuomo says he does not know for certain whether that will indeed happen. The governor says vaping has become a burgeoning health crisis, and he compares it to the tobacco epidemic of earlier decades and the current opioid problem.

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