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New York Just Banned Flavored Vapes. Is All of America Next?

The entire state of New York is going to ban the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes. Over the weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would issue an “emergency” executive order to take some vapes off the shelves to prevent underage New Yorkers from using them. This fresh wave of e-cigarette outrage has been building for awhile now.

Vaping used to be little more than a joke—you imagined a vape user as a slimy kind of dude with a fedora blowing milky clouds across the sidewalk. Then the cool people caught on, and it became a fascination. Was Juul actually a street style brand? Could it save the world from Big Nicotine? We didn’t know much about these electronic sticks, but Leonardo DiCaprio was fully on board.

Leonardo DiCaprio vapes at the 2016 SAG Awards.

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And then the kids took to vaping. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration started to look into Juul and other e-cigarette companies’ marketing practices to see if they were targeting minors—especially with fun, fruity flavor pods. Then, in December, a report found that vape usage had skyrocketed among high schoolers in 2018 alone. These kids weren’t using vapes to lessen nicotine dependence, like many adults were (and, as the Centers for Disease Control conceded, was a potential benefit of vaping). They weren’t hooked on nicotine to begin with. But research indicated that vape usage could lead to nicotine and tobacco use in these young people.

A day later, the Surgeon General issued an advisory recommending state and local governments ban indoor vaping and tax the sales of e-cigarettes, to protect America’s youth. Some states and localities have gone even further, moving to enact bans on e-cigarettes.

And here we are now. Last week, the CDC pointed to 380 cases of lung disease in the U.S. that were linked to vape usage, six of which led to death. News outlets are ramping up reporting on the public health issue—NBC just reported that some vape users are actually turning back to cigarettes to lessen their Juul dependence, which is, needless to say, ironic—and governments are ramping up serious regulations. The federal government might even step in. On the flip side, vape proponents say bans will keep adults hooked on regular cigarettes, which we know are extremely harmful, and lead to a vaping black market.

So where, exactly, are vape bans going into effect, and what do they cover?

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A collection of Juul vape products.

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San Francisco

In June, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to put a blanket ban of the sale and distribution of all electronic cigarettes—not just flavored ones. Ironically, Juul is headquartered in San Francisco, and it is pouring millions into a November ballot initiative that would overturn the ban. The ban goes into effect in early 2020, assuming S.F. residents don’t vote to overturn it before then.

Michigan

In early September, Michigan became the first U.S. state to put a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, which should go into effect within a month. “My number one priority is keeping our kids safe and protecting the health of the people of Michigan,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer told The Washington Post. The state’s health board will hammer out regulations, and the ban will be in place for six months, after which it can be renewed. It covers sweet, fruit flavors as well as mint and menthol, but allows the sale of tobacco-flavored vape products.

New York

New York quickly followed Michigan’s lead this week. Governor Cuomo said the goal of the his executive action was to crack down on retailers illegally selling to minors, to regulate “deceptive” marketing practices of vape products to minors, and to raise the legal age to buy electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21, CBS News reports. The ban will cover flavored e-cigs and likely go into effect in early October.

America as a whole—maybe

Following the CDC report that six deaths had been linked to vaping—and very likely at Melania’s behest—President Trump announced that the federal government will work for the removal of flavored e-cigarettes from the market and put out “some very strong recommendation” about vape usage within the next couple of months.

But then, on Friday night, Trump tweeted, “While I like the Vaping alternative to Cigarettes, we need to make sure this alternative is SAFE for ALL! Let’s get counterfeits off the market, and keep young children from Vaping!” This seems to indicate a step backwards, pivoting attention to so-called “counterfeits”—which tends to refer to bootleg THC cartridges, which is another issue entirely—instead of all flavored e-cigs. So who the hell knows how this one will pan out.


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