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November 25, 2019

New York City Vapers: Act Today to Stop the Flavor Ban!

The largest city in the country is on the verge of banning flavored vaping products. The New York City Council will vote on the ban Tuesday afternoon, and many council members have already declared their support.

The law will serve no purpose. It will destroy legitimate small businesses that serve adult vapers, but will not prevent online sales or the many black market products that will flow into the city to fill the vacuum.

Probably the only way the bill can be stopped is by immediate and overwhelming action by vapers and their allies. In a city of more than eight million people, there are hundreds of thousands of people who use flavored vaping products, many of them to avoid smoking cigarettes.

Unlike the recently passed Massachusetts flavor ban, New York will exempt menthol cigarettes in its ordinance, which eliminates much of the political pushback against the law. Council Speaker Corey Johnson removed the menthol cigarette component of the bill after pressure from powerful African-American activists.

The bill had been hung up for months as council members fought over the menthol cigarette ban with political activist Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network. Sharpton’s position is that a menthol cigarette ban will lead to additional police activity in black neighborhoods, where menthol cigarettes are especially popular.

Sharpton, whose group has accepted funding from tobacco companies, has been portrayed as a tobacco shill by opponents. However, Sharpton points to the tragic case of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by an NYPD officer in 2014 during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes. Sharpton says that, with or without funding from tobacco companies, he would be fighting the creation of yet another black market that will attract law enforcement to black communities.

In any case, the removal of menthol cigarettes from the council bill has eliminated Sharpton’s powerful opposition, and the bill is now set to sail through a final vote Tuesday. The council will not even hold a final hearing before the vote is taken.

Vapers will have to work fast to bombard the City Council with enough emails, calls and tweets to make members reconsider. CASAA’s call to action (see link below) recommends residents call City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in addition to their own council members.

Johnson is hypocritically allowing the bill to receive a vote even though he used a vaping product himself to quit smoking. He is planning a run for mayor next year, so it may be useful to remind him that vapers vote.

The New York State Vapor Association (see tweet above) suggests calling all members of the council Health Committee, which is holding an emergency meeting before the full council session. NYSVA has also included Twitter handles for key council members and others.

Vapers will rally at 12:30 at City Hall to protest the bill. Be there if you possibly can. The council meeting begins at 1:30.

The CASAA call to action includes a pre-written email that will be sent to your council member. It can be edited to include your personal story that illustrates how flavored products helped you. It’s important that council members understand that flavors aren’t a trick to ensnare kids, but the kind of vape most adults prefer.

Please get the word out. Share the call to action on social media and in shops. Call everyone you know who opposes vaping restrictions. Tell your friends and family who don’t vape how the legislation will affect you. This is the last chance to prevent this unjust attack on harm reduction products. Get as many people to the City Hall rally as possible. Start spreading the news.

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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