The New York TimesNov 22, 2019 17:58:14 IST
The New York City Council agreed Thursday to ban flavoured e-cigarettes amid heightened concerns about the use of such products, making New York City the most populous jurisdiction in the country to impose such a ban.
The ban would cover all flavoured e-cigarettes and e-liquid vaping products, including ones that are menthol flavoured. At least 30 members of the 51-member City Council have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.
Similar bans have been introduced or are being considered around the country: Voters in San Francisco approved a referendum to ban flavoured vaping products in June 2018, and the Massachusetts Legislature passed a ban on flavoured tobacco Wednesday.
Other states, including New York and Michigan, have attempted to impose temporary bans on flavoured vaping products through executive orders, but those efforts have been stalled by lawsuits challenging the moves.
“The vaping industry launched a full-force effort to stop this because they knew if it was done here they couldn’t stop it across the country,” said Councilman Mark Levine, D-Manhattan, the chair of the health committee and the bill’s primary sponsor. “If we can do it here, it will go nationwide.”
There is already a national momentum building against e-cigarette use. The attorneys general of New York and California each filed lawsuits against Juul this week, charging that the company practised deceptive marketing by failing to mention that their products contained nicotine and also targeted young people with enticing flavours like mango.
On Tuesday, the AMA called for a “total ban on all e-cigarette and vaping products” that do not meet Food and Drug Administration standards as smoking cessation tools.
New York City already has a law banning the sale of flavoured tobacco products, but menthol-flavoured products and e-cigarettes were not included.
The new legislation, which is expected to be passed by the City Council on Tuesday, includes menthol-flavoured products; the only vaping liquid that would be allowed for sale are tobacco-flavoured products. The bill would then go to Mayor Bill de Blasio to sign.
“The mayor supports it. We will either sign it or let it lapse into law,” said Freddi Goldstein, de Blasio’s press secretary.
The Council, however, set aside a companion measure that would have banned the sale of menthol cigarettes amid concerted lobbying efforts and opposition from the Rev Al Sharpton, whose nonprofit National Action Network has regularly taken five-figure contributions from the tobacco giant Reynolds American.
That legislation has come under attack from some civil rights activists who say that since menthol cigarettes are largely smoked by African Americans, banning them would create an underground market that could lead to tragedies like the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after a confrontation with police officers who accused him of selling loose cigarettes. Others have argued for a ban, citing health concerns.
Levine said there is still a “strong commitment” to the menthol ban.
Kirsten John Foy, a civil rights activist who was formerly a part of Sharpton’s organisation, said that delaying a menthol cigarette ban was a capitulation to the tobacco industry.
The vaping industry’s lobbying efforts have also been strenuous, if less successful. In 2019 alone, Juul paid more than $250,000 to lobbyists from five firms to lobby on its behalf in New York City, mostly related to the flavoured e-cigarette bill, state filings show. (The company also paid to lobby against restrictions in Albany.)
The City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, who has shared on social media about his use of e-cigarettes to quit smoking cigarettes, “proudly supports” the vaping legislation, said his spokeswoman Jennifer Fermino, and is meeting with stakeholders to find a compromise on the menthol ban.
Vaping industry officials have said generally that removing their products from the market would eliminate one tool that adults have used to help stop smoking cigarettes.
The Vapor Technology Association said in a statement Thursday night that it was willing “to continue working with the City of New York on effective regulations and real solutions that will achieve the twin goals of restricting youth vaping, which is already illegal, and preserving flavored vapor as an alternative for adult consumers desperately trying to quit smoking, without ruining the livelihoods of the workers that the City’s regulated nicotine-vapour products industry employs.”
But in a sign of the mounting pressure, Juul stopped selling its non-menthol flavoured products in the United States in October.
Jeffery C. Mays and J. David Goodman c.2019 The New York Times Company
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