The sale of flavored e-cigarettes ended May 18 in New York State, one in a series of new New York State laws about to take effect.
Also last week, a law prohibiting online sales delivered to private residences took effect. Selling tobacco products in pharmacies will be prohibited effective July 1. New York becomes the second state in the nation to restrict the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies.
The new laws were passed last month as part of the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget.
The flavor ban is intended to take away a lot of the appeal of e-cigarettes, according to tobacco-free advocates who have been seeking the ban. With the ban, the advocates said they expect the number of people – especially young people – using vape products to decrease.
“Annually our state suffers needless loss of life due to first and secondhand smoke; these added measures ... will not only address this issue but make a significant impact to youth tobacco use rates and contribute to successful quit attempts by current smokers,” said Annalisa Rogers, director of the Smoking & Health Action Coalition, which serves Livingston and Monroe counties.
Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, said it has been “a long battle to get this legislation
“We understand how difficult it is to quit nicotine, however, we hope limiting access will help those who are trying to quit, quit; and those who are thinking about using nicotine, to not start.” Pettit said. “Vaping and nicotine use in any form has had a detrimental and long-lasting impact on our resident’s health over the years. We encourage people to make health smart decisions and choose alternative activities to prevent disease so they can enjoy a healthier quality of life.”
Research shows that the flavors in e-cigarettes attract children and the nicotine addicts them, according to a December 2019 report by Tobacco-Free Kids. Nearly 40% of high school seniors in New York State use e-cigarettes, also referred to as “vaping,” and 27% of all high school youth vape, the report said. Surveys by health officials of students in the four-county GLOW region found that youth were increasingly using e-cigarettes in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties and in some cases at rates above the New York State average.
Surveys of e-cigarette used for a 30-day period among youth in grades 7 through 12 in Wyoming County found 18.3 percent in 2017 had used an e-cigarette within 30 days, while among the same age group in Orleans County the result was 14 percent. Both results were more than the state average of 9.9 percent for that year.
In 2018, Genesee County health officials surveyed youth in grades 8, 10 and 12 and found 20.5 percent of students used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, which was greater than the state average of that year of 19.3 percent.
A similar 2018 survey by Livingston County health officials, found that 21 percent of youth reported using e-cigarettes and that 17 percent reported using them in the past 30 days.
Selling tobacco products in pharmacies has long sent a contradictory message to consumers by offering tobacco alongside medicine or products for illnesses either caused by or made worse by smoking, according to advocates seeking to ban the sales.
The new laws end that practice, while also reducing the number of stores that sell tobacco products in every community.
“These policies are all part of a full court press,” said Andrew Hyland, chair of the Department of Health Behavior and head of tobacco control programs at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. “They are part of long-standing efforts by New York State to change the social norms about tobacco by making products less appealing and less accessible.”
But the legislation is criticized by those seeking a nicotine alternative to smoking, which they say poses a far more serious danger to public health, particularly during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Taking vapor products, which are safer nicotine alternatives, from people who smoke or switched from smoking is a bad and irresponsible decision, especially at a time now when people are dying from a severe respiratory disease that is made worse by the underlying diseases that are attributed to smoking,” said Alex Clark, CEO of Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association.
Smoking-related illnesses such as COPD, asthma and chronic bronchitis can lead to more severe cases of COVID-19, but vaping does not, and taking that option away from some vapor product users can send them back to smoking, Clark said.
“We know from states like Massachusetts, which banned vapor products during the lung-injury scare, that some people went back to smoking,” Clark added.
The lung injuries that occurred several months ago were not the result of vaping, Clark said, but rather an additive, vitamin E acetate, that was added to some THC vaping products.
Support to quit smoking
For help quitting smoking or vaping, including free nicotine replacement therapy for eligible residents, individuals can contact a health care provider, call the New York State Smokers’ Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS or visit www.nysmokefree.com. Effective medications and counseling are covered by Medicaid and most insurance programs.