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New York Takes Historic Action to Tackle Youth E-Cigarette Use by Ending the Sale of All Flavored E-Cigarettes

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 02, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New York leaders today delivered a historic win for kids over the tobacco industry by agreeing to include legislation in the state’s annual budget that prohibits the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes. The final measure contains additional provisions as part of a comprehensive approach to reduce tobacco use, including prohibitions on tobacco sales at pharmacies and on coupons and other price discounts.

This legislation is especially timely because smokers, and in all likelihood vapers as well, are at greater risk when confronted with the coronavirus. The measure is critical to driving down tobacco use and reversing the youth e-cigarette epidemic that is addicting a new generation of kids. We applaud Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his strong leadership in pushing for this measure as part of his #NoVapeNY campaign, making New York the largest state – and fourth overall – to end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

Gov. Cuomo introduced language in his Executive Budget to end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte have led the legislative effort to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and have been pushing similar legislation over the last several years. The legislation puts into law the emergency regulations Gov. Cuomo announced in September but that have since been held up in court. 

However, we are disappointed with the inclusion of a loophole in the legislation pushed by the industry to protect its interests over those of kids and public health by permitting flavored products that get authorized by the FDA to return to the market. This raises a dangerous threat because the Trump Administration has demonstrated that it is more concerned with protecting vape shops and flavored e-cigarettes than protecting the health of our youth. There is no reason for these flavored tobacco products to be on the market – period – especially in light of the growing body of evidence that e-cigarettes and vaping put lung health at risk. At a time when we are facing one of the worst pandemics in our nation’s history, we should be doing everything thing we can to improve lung health.

Nonetheless, Gov. Cuomo, Senator Hoylman, Assemblywoman Rosenthal and Assemblywoman Bichotte deserve enormous credit for their leadership in combating tobacco use, especially among kids. We are extremely grateful for their forceful actions to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic and protect the health of New York kids. None of their original proposals included the FDA exemption language.

New York joins Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island in prohibiting the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes (setting a terrific example, Massachusetts prohibited the sale of all flavored tobacco products). We strongly urge other states – including neighboring Connecticut and Vermont – to join in ending the sale of flavored tobacco products.

There is no time to waste as the youth e-cigarette epidemic has gone from bad to worse. According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (2019 NYTS), e-cigarette use among high school students nationwide increased to 27.5% in 2019 compared to 11.7% in 2017. Altogether, more than 5.3 million middle and high school students now use e-cigarettes. In New York, 27.4% of high school students use e-cigarettes, compared to 4.8% who smoke cigarettes. The evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes have fueled this epidemic – 97% of youth e-cigarette users report using a flavored product in the past month, and 70% cite flavors as the reason for their use.

A recent poll showed that over two thirds of New York voters (70%) support the policy, including 61% who strongly support it. Support crosses political and demographic lines.

We also applaud the bill’s prohibition on the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies (the second statewide ban in the nation, following Massachusetts) and prohibition of coupons and other price promotions for tobacco products (also the second, following New Jersey), including e-cigarettes. We know that price reductions make tobacco products more appealing and affordable to kids. 

We strongly urge the New York legislature to tackle the serious problem of other flavored tobacco products – especially menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars – when they next return to session. It’s time to stop tobacco companies from targeting and addicting kids with flavored products once and for all.