Vaping Targeted In County And State Legislation

Legislator Arnold Drucker at the podium speaking about his bill restricting flavored e-cigarettes from being sold in
Nassau County. (Photo courtesy of Legislator Arnold Drucker’s office)

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this past weekend that the state will consider banning flavored e-cigarettes as soon as next month. This comes on the cusp of a rise in vape-related illnesses throughout the country, as well as a growing fight against vaping at the state and local levels.

Senator Kevin Thomas announced last week that he is filing legislation to ban refillable liquid used in e-cigarette cartridges.

“E-cigarettes have been branded as less deadly as regular cigarettes,” said Thomas. “In the past couple of months, we have seen that is not true. The growing number of cases of lung damage, ER visits and deaths that have occurred because of young adults smoking them is proof of that. I’m trying to put a stop to this because they don’t have the proper ingredient list. We don’t know what’s in them.”

The concern, in Thomas’ eyes, is that young adults have been targeted in advertisments of fruit-flavored vape and that it needs to be regulated so they can stop the epidemic.

“We have 41 confirmed cases in New York of individuals being taken to the ER because they smoked these e-cigarettes,” said Thomas. “A mom from my constituency in Bethpage came to my office to talk about what is going on with her son. She found vaping instruments under his mattress and he’s been coughing a lot. She was looking to me for help on how to tackle this problem.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that there were more than 450 cases of lung-related illnesses that were associated with vaping, specifically with e-cigarettes that have nicotine and THC. There have been at least six deaths that are related to e-cigarettes in 2019.

More locally, Legislator Arnold Drucker has had a bill in waiting that would restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes throughout Nassau County. As of the time of publishing, it has not been assigned to a committee.

“I became aware over the past year from having a close relationship with the school districts of my [legislative] district about the growing problem with kids vaping,” said Drucker. “It is reaching really alarming proportions. Teachers and parents are really concerned about it. Since it was filed in May, its taken off like wild fire because now there is mounting evidence that this is a dangerous habit.”

Vaping products are sold frequently at various smoke shops around the island. Local officials are looking to crack down on certain products that may attract teens.

Another bill by the legislator was passed out of committee last week that would ban companies from advertising vape products within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, park, etc. It is expected to be ratified by the full legislature on Monday, Sept. 23.

When asked why the flavored e-cigarette restriction bill has not been assigned to a committee, Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello said that they are attempting to determine what local action can and should proceed.

“We have already passed legislation making it illegal to sell vaping or tobacco products to anyone under 21 years old,” said Nicolello. “We are also trying to get the administration to step up its enforcement of existing laws. We will continue to work with all involved to protect the health of the public, especially our young people, in a manner that is consistent with state and federal law and mindful of the rights of adults.”

One of the major targets of vaping law suits is JUUL. According to a study, one JUUL pod contains 20 cigarettes worth of nicotine. This fact alone has Drucker worried about letting these companies go further without regulation.

“The science alone is still so new,” said Drucker. “There’s still synthetic products in these vape liquids that could be very harmful. It’s not just the nicotine.”

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a nonprofit that advocates for sensible regulation of vaping products, said in a statement that Thomas and Drucker’s bills are an “attack on harm-reduction technology” that could lead those who used vaping to quit smoking regular cigarettes to go back to doing so or even to resort to black market items.

“Senator Thomas’ bill won’t do a thing to stop drug dealers from purchasing blank cartridges from China and filling them in their basements,” said Conley. “For Drucker’s bill, contrary to the talking points of anti-harm-reduction activists, there is a great deal of evidence showing that flavors play a critical role in helping smokers switch. Such an overarching flavor ban will result in more cigarette smoking, less quitting, and several small businesses shutting their doors throughout Nassau County.”

“All of this comes with a dire warning that tightly restricting the manufacture and sale of flavored nicotine products will likely contribute to a similar outbreak of illness in the not so distant future,” said Alex Clark, legislative coordinator at Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association.

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