The recent spate of vaping-related deaths and illnesses prompted a flurry of government orders and proposals in Albany and Washington last week to warn the public about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes and discourage children from vaping.
On Thursday, the state Public Health and Health Planning Council passed emergency regulations requiring stores that sell e-cigarettes to post strongly worded posters made by the Department of Health, a mandate that took effect immediately. The warning signs feature the image of an e-cigarette billowing black smoke and declare, "Vaping can expose you to toxic chemicals and kill you!"
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that same day that state lawmakers had passed in June and requires anti-smoking programs conducted in schools to also counsel children against vaping. He also issued an executive order requiring all state agencies to add anti-vaping steps to their educational programs and employee training, and directed the health and education departments to write anti-vaping lessons for schools to use.
"After raising the smoking age to 21 to protect young people from the costly and deadly addiction to nicotine, we are doubling down on our mission to protect the public health and keep our children safe from the dangers of e-cigarettes — which have unfortunately become common alternatives to regular cigarettes," Cuomo said in a statement.
Cuomo had announced on Monday that he would propose legislation to ban flavored e-cigarettes as a way to cut down on teen use. But lawmakers are unlikely to be in Albany to consider it until their next session starts in January, and they already have a proposal to ban vaping flavors that failed to reach the floor of the Assembly or Senate this year or in 2018.
Juul Labs, a leading maker of e-cigarettes, had argued against that legislation in June, saying in a statement that "flavors play a critical role in switching adult smokers from cigarettes because flavors can help smokers disassociate from the taste of tobacco and the odor of cigarettes."
"While we do not and will not sell flavors which are clearly targeted to youth, we also understand that flavors that drive adults from cigarettes have the potential to appeal to youth," the statement read.
The federal government announced last week that the Food and Drug Administration will issue a policy "in the coming weeks" that effectively will remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market, and presumably make it unnecessary for New York or other states to outlaw them. The details of that plan have yet to be released.
“The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement on Wednesday.