New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has jumped in with other politicians to demand a quickly-enacted ban on flavored tobacco vaping products. His Sunday announcement came in the midst of a little-understood string of vaping-related deaths by severe lung disease, despite the fact that some of the dead were known to have smoked cannabis products.
It would appear that the health crisis is dovetailing with concerns about the growing number of teen vapers to cause politicians to take a stand. Cuomo’s words follow those of the First Couple. After Melania Trump tweeted her concern over the “growing epidemic” of teen vaping last Monday, the president followed up on Wednesday with a press conference with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Flavored vapes would be subject to much more stringent regulatory requirements.
“We can’t have our kids be so affected,” Trump said. “That’s how the First Lady got involved. She’s got a son […] a beautiful young man, and she feels very, very strongly.” Barron Trump, who is also the president’s son, is 13 years old.
Cuomo’s concern was hardly limited to young people. “Vaping is dangerous,” he announced. “Period. No one can say long-term use of vaping — where you’re inhaling steam and chemicals deep into your lungs — is healthy.”
The governor’s solution? That an emergency regulation banning flavored e-cigarettes immediately be issued by New York’s Public Health and Health Planning Council.
New York state would not be the first US jurisdiction to take such a step. San Francisco became the first city in the country to ban the sale of all e-cigarettes back in June. The city is home to leading vape company Juul’s world corporate headquarters, and the company has launched a ballot measure campaign to defeat the ban that could end up being the most expensive ballot measure drive the city has ever seen. This month, the state of Michigan also prohibited flavored e-cigs.
Such legislation may have more momentum in the midst of the vaping health crisis, which many have pegged to the use of thickening agents like Vitamin E acetate by largely unlicensed vape dealers. But it is unlikely to halt the six-death string of fatalities given that many of the deceased were known to have been vaping cannabis products.
But politicians are correct in their assertions that young people are turning more and more to vaping products. Studies show that many teens prefer to consume drugs by vaping. Vape products have the additional bonus of being easy to smoke in a covert manner, without leaving its consumers stinking like tobacco—good for kids looking to consume their marijuana or tobacco on the sly.
Cuomo did offer one caveat to his proposed ban—menthol flavor products would not be affected by the prohibition. He said that’s because menthol products help people to stop smoking regular cigarettes. Ironically, that’s what certain vape product advocates say about the class of inhalants regardless of selected flavor.
That logic didn’t fly with Harold Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association. “While today’s announcement was well-intentioned, it will drive our youth to use menthol-flavored products in even greater numbers,” he told the New York Times.