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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today he will pursue legislation banning the possession, manufacture, distribution, sale or offer for sale of flavored e-cigarette liquids in New York State.

The governor has also directed the state health department to issue emergency regulations to require warning signs on the dangers of vaping in all shops that sell e-cigarette products.

Health officials in New York and across the country are investigating the incidence of vaping-related lung illness.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of illnesses, even deaths, across the country,” Cuomo said at a press conference today. “The CDC estimates 500 [deaths]that are linked to vaping of certain substances and this is a frightening public health phenomenon,” he said. “Common sense says if you do not know what you are smoking, don’t smoke it, and right now we don’t know what you are smoking in a lot of these vaping substances,” the governor said.

Cuomo ordered the Department of Health to issue subpoenas to three companies that have been marketing thickening agents to companies that manufacture vape liquids. These thickeners — nearly pure vitamin E acetate oil — are being marketed and readily available on the internet as a cheaper, safer alternative that does not negatively impact flavoring or odor of existing products and can be used to cut vape products to any level of THC, Cuomo said.

In addition to requiring point-of-sale warning signs about the dangers of vaping, the state health department is also launching a public service campaign to further educate the public on the numerous risks involved with vaping, the governor said.

“The current outbreak of vaping-associated illnesses and the increasing number of young people using vape products and developing lifelong addictions are two serious public health crises,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said.

According to health department data, nearly 40 percent of 12th grade students and 27 percent of high school students in New York State are now using e-cigarettes, and this increase is largely driven by flavored e-liquids. High school use in 2018 (27.4%) is 160 percent higher than it was in 2014 (10.5%). While New York’s high school student smoking rate dropped from 27.1% in 2000 to a record low of 4.3% in 2016, aggressive marketing promoting flavored e-cigarettes stands to turn that trend.

Flavoring is a key youth marketing strategy of the vaping/aerosol industry just as it is in the cigarette, cigar, and smokeless tobacco markets. E-cigarette marketing highlights flavors such as mint chocolate, bubblegum and cherry cola, and creates a mistaken belief that they are not harmful to users. Studies show nearly 78% of high school students, and 75% of middle school students report being exposed to pro-tobacco marketing in 2016.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.