Leaders in New York State are planning a statewide flavor ban and taxes for vaping products, while at the same time celebrating what looks to be a bright future for legal cannabis in the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who just two years ago said marijuana was a “gateway drug” to more dangerous substances, is now a proponent of legalizing recreational pot — but strongly opposed to allowing the vaping flavors that most adult vapers prefer.
Cuomo has just proposed legislation that will clear the way for a flavored vape ban, eliminate displays of vapor products in non-adult-only stores, ban sales in pharmacies, require a license to sell vapes, and establish a Tobacco 21 law that includes e-cigarettes. The changes will be included in his 2019 budget proposal, which will also include an e-liquid tax (the amount hasn’t been announced yet).
“Flavors, such as sweet tart, toffee, and bubble gum make e-cigarettes more attractive to youth,” said Gov. Cuomo. “The budget will include a proposal to provide the Department of Health the authority to ban the sale of certain flavored liquids that target youth use of e-cigarettes.”
The New York State Vapor Association has previously fought and beaten attempts by Gov. Cuomo and legislators to impose taxes and flavor restrictions. The NYSVA supports laws that will prevent youth vaping, but stands against most of the governor’s proposals. “We are hopeful that a balance between adults who need them and minors who shouldn’t use them can be met with a common sense approach,” says NYSVA president Michael Frennier. The group, which represents independent vaping businesses in the state, may have an uphill battle this time.
Since voters in San Francisco approved a flavor ban last June, politicians have been planning to introducing similar state laws in 2019 — and that moment has arrived. Multiple anti-flavor bills have been introduced in California already, and there is serious talk of flavor bans in other states, including Colorado and New Mexico. And a nationwide flavor ban was introduced in Congress just last week.
Cannabis, on the other hand, is the popular new kid on the block for many of the same legislators that have worked overtime to restrict vapes and e-liquid flavors. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has advocated for restrictions and bans on vapor products for years, but just this week he held a press conference to welcome cannabis company Canopy Growth Corporation to New York State. The huge Canadian company’s New York hemp operation will be a “major shot in the arm” for the area, said Schumer.
In the same budget bill that will include his vaping restrictions, Gov. Cuomo has proposed to legalize recreational sales of cannabis, including a progressive plan to encourage licenses for women, minorities, and farmers. “We have to do it in a way that creates an economic opportunity for poor communities and people who paid the price and not for rich corporations who are going to come in to make a buck,” Cuomo said in his budget speech.
The governor knows how to read polls. Legal cannabis is extremely popular among the Democratic governor’s supporters, as it is throughout the northeast. Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont have approved recreational pot already, and several other northeastern states — including New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire — are giving the idea a serious look. Ten states and the District of Columbia have legal recreational cannabis, and more than 30 allow some form of legal medical marijuana.
Vapers shouldn’t take out their anger on cannabis supporters though. Marijuana advocates have been fighting for reasonable laws — beginning from a position of complete nationwide prohibition — for more than 40 years. Now they’re closing in on their goal of legal pot in all 50 states, even while nicotine is heading in the opposite direction. Between the panic over FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s so-called teenage vaping epidemic and the perpetual crusade against flavors, the vaping industry and consumer advocates are being forced to fight on new fronts every day, with fewer and fewer resources.
New York vapers interested in tracking the anti-vaping bills that will be arriving soon should join CASAA (which is free), and respond to the alerts and calls to action regarding the flavor ban and other legislation.