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Gov. Cuomo Calls For Ban Of Flavored E-Cigarettes In Vaping Crackdown


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday announced an emergency executive action to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in the state of New York.

The ban would affect all flavors expect for tobacco and menthol.

This is the latest in a number of recent calls for action as the concern about vaping grows nationwide. There have been hundreds of reports of vaping-related illnesses and at least six related deaths across the country, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other officials to urge the public to stop vaping.

"Vaping is dangerous. It's addicting millions of young people to nicotine at a very early age, some would argue earlier than cigarettes actually introduced young people to ... nicotine," Cuomo said.

According to Cuomo, 68% of people who vape use flavored products, which are highly attractive to younger vape users. The number of vaping-related lung illnesses in New York has climbed to 64, and vaping among high school students has gone up 160 percent in the last four years.

"Names like bubble gum, cotton candy, Cap'n Crunch ... these are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people," Cuomo said.

RELATED STORY: Survey Finds Thousands Of NYC Middle School Students Are Vaping

Dr. Howard Zucker, the Department of Health commissioner, will hold an emergency meeting with the Public Health and Health Planning Council this week. The council has the authority to issue an emergency regulation enacting the ban.

"This is such an important issue. It's evolving. It's changing every day and we need to tackle this as fast as possible," Zucker said. "We saw this with tobacco. We saw this decades ago. We don't need to repeat history. I think we need to tackle this right now and do it fast."

"The vaping companies' only rationale is, well, we're better than cigarettes. OK, so, instead of hitting myself on the head with a metal pipe, I'll hit myself on the head with a wooden stick. The metal pipe is worse. Yeah, no, I understand the metal pipe is worse, but the wooden stick isn't great either, right?" Cuomo said.

Officials hope to begin enforcing the ban as soon as Oct. 4.

Watch Cuomo's full announcement:

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump said his administration was trying to ban all non-tobacco flavored vaping products from the market, but Cuomo said he's not willing to wait for action from the federal government.

"I've been disappointed time and time and time again. The political influence of these companies is not to be underestimated. These are very powerful business interests. If you listen to their spokespeople, they threaten the president politically with the power of their user, customer base, which is now addicted, so I'm not relying or waiting for the federal government," Cuomo said.

Watch: What You Need To Know About Vaping-Related Illnesses:

Several organizations released statements after Cuomo's announcement, urging stronger action.

Bill Sherman, managing director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said:

"We call on Gov. Cuomo to amend his proposal immediately to include mint and menthol flavored e-cigarettes. Exempting menthol e-cigarettes from this rule makes no sense. This emergency rule has glaring holes that will allow the tobacco industry to continue to lure our kids with menthol e-cigarettes. Mint and menthol are candy flavors to our kids. That's why at least 64% of the youth who report using e-cigarettes, use menthol e-cigarettes. We need the legislature to act urgently to restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes. Without comprehensive actions tobacco companies will continue to lure our kids into addiction with menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products like cigars and hookah."

Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, also criticized not banning menthol e-cigarettes:

"The Lung Association opposes today's announcement by Gov. Cuomo regarding flavored e-cigarettes in New York. The Governor had the opportunity to take decisive action, but instead left menthol e-cigarettes on the marketplace. While today's announcement was well-intentioned, it will drive our youth to use menthol flavored products in even greater numbers. We will continue to work towards the permanent removal of all flavored tobacco including e-cigarettes from the marketplace. Flavors have been shown to initiate kids to tobacco use and a lifetime of addiction and tobacco-related death and disease. We call on the New York State Legislature to pass legislation to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products including e-cigarettes, cigars, and menthol cigarettes."

Critics said the ban will have a devastating impact on small businesses. There are more than 700 vape stores in the state, including more than 70 in New York City alone. Some say if the ban takes effect, most if not all of the shops will go out of business," CBS2's Nick Caloway reported.

"We think that closing down hundreds and hundreds of businesses that have nothing to do with the issue is absolutely insane," said Spike Babaian of the New York State Vaper Association.

Babaian said the vast majority of products sold in vape shops are flavored.

"It's impossible for any vape shop to stay open when you eliminate 90 percent of their sales," he said.

Cuomo and Zucker said some data suggests the menthol vaping flavor is helpful for those who are trying to stop smoking menthol cigarettes, which is why menthol is not included in the ban.

RELATED STORY: N.J. Lawmaker Wants To Ban Sale Of All Vaping Products; FDA Eyes Flavored E-Cigarettes

The governor also said next year they will propose legislation that will ban vaping advertising directed towards young people.

"Current vaping companies that were subject to the 1998 Tobacco Master settlement are already prohibited from marketing tobacco products to young people. New companies that were not part of the tobacco settlement in 1998 are not so prohibited. We would pass a law in the state that says all such companies are prohibited from marketing to young people," Cuomo said.

RELATED STORY: New York State Raises Smoking Age From 18 To 21

Additionally, state police and the Department of Health will work together to conduct undercover investigations across the state in an effort to crack down on retailers found selling tobacco and vaping products to underage individuals.

Retailers who are caught will face criminal penalties in addition to civil penalties.

Outside the New York City Department of Education on Sunday, dozens of students and parents gathered to rally against the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. The devices are now common even in middle schools.

"I see middle schoolers vaping all around me -- when I walk down the street, when I look through social media, and even when I'm with my friends," seventh grader Yael Mintz told Caloway.

JUUL Labs, one of the largest makers of e-cigarettes, said in a statement Sunday it has already stopped selling most flavored products in traditional retail stores, adding that the company will continue to combat usage among minors.

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