New York City Approves Ban On Sale Of Flavored E-Cigarettes
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The New York City Council approved a ban on most flavored e-cigarettes Tuesday amid growing concerns over the deadly vaping crisis.
The vote came just days after the second vaping-related death in the city.
Supporters of the ban say the flavored products target kids, but adult users worry they will be forced return to traditional tobacco.
"We are taking a momentous step to protect the health of our young people - a step that has been too long coming," Councilman Mark Levine said on the steps of City Hall.
After passage, opponents of the vote threw money from a balcony, shouting "Big tobacco thanks you," according to CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.
Under the new law, owners could face penalties starting at 1,000 dollars for selling it. The unpopular tobacco flavor can remain on the shelves.
The increased popularity of vaping among middle and high school students spurred the ban even though it's already illegal for them to purchase it.
"This will not stop every kid who is determined to get flavored e-cig from doing so," said Levine. "It will make it a lot tougher. It will remove the temptation."
At Smoking 'N Vaping on 9th Avenue, they've already scaled back their inventory of flavored e-cigarettes, but it's still 75% of their business.
"Our business will go down, it will go down," said store owner Aiman Alshugaa. "Because we can't pay our costs, no salaries, no rent."
Web Extra: Read the bill proposing the ban
Speaker Corey Johnson supported the ban, but he himself also vapes as a means to quit smoking. Now he says he'll have to turn to the tobacco flavored vapes that are still allowed or try to quit cold turkey.
Monday night, the City Council Committee on Health unanimously voted in favor of the ban, sponsored by Levine.
"Let's be clear: About 3% of adults vape, for high schoolers it's about 25%. This is predominantly a phenomena for young people," he said. "We know it's flavors that are hooking them - whether it's fruity, minty, candy, dessert-sounding flavors. So our bill would eliminate that threat."
In October, 17-year-old boy in the Bronx was the first person in the state to die of vaping-related causes. Last Wednesday, a Manhattan man in his 30s became the second victim.
"This is an epidemic at all levels - in this city, in this state, across the country," said a woman from Parents Against Vaping.
According to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2,200 people have been treated for vaping-related illnesses nationwide and 47 have died.
WATCH: Anti-Tobacco Advocates Rally Behind Flavored E-Cigarette Ban
"All of the lung conditions that have been caused, that have been confirmed, have been found to be caused by elicit market THC products that have elicit additives, they have contaminants in them," Spike Babain, who has been running Vape New York for eight years, told CBS2. "That is not a product that we sell in our stores."
Babain worries that only allowing non-flavored tobacco products will do more harm than good.
"Every shop in New York City will close, which means millions and millions of people will go back to smoking overnight," she said.
"They're asking us to go back to a non-flavored tobacco. That's like asking an alcoholic to drink beer-flavored water," another vape user added. "We don't want to vape tobacco flavor, we're trying to get away from it."
MORE: As Vote To Ban Flavored Vaping Products Looms, NYC Users Warn They'll Go Back To Smoking
If approved by the mayor, New York would be the first large city in the country to ban flavored e-cigarettes.
"One of the reasons why JUUL and the vaping industry has fought this so hard in New York is because they know if we can do it here - and I expect we will later today - it will reverberate nationally," said Levine.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has already expressed his support for the bill, which has 31 co-sponsors.
"I am certain there are some people who benefit, but the problem we have is we know that these flavors are being used to systematically hook children and we know people are using other products and we know we have a health crisis now. So the goal here always is, once you realize that something is backfiring, you have to act," he said.
Similar legislation was unanimously passed last night in Nassau County. Back in September, New York state lawmakers also pushed to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, but a judge temporarily blocked their efforts.
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