Vaping Illness Among New Yorkers Increases To 60 cases

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ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – There’s new scrutiny on vaping products of all kinds, as the number of New Yorkers sickened with a disease that is so far related to some black-market marijuana vaping products has now risen to 60. Hundreds of people across the United States have been sickened, and five have died.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on those who use vaping products, even those with nicotine only that are legally sold in New York, to refrain from vaping right now. So far, no illnesses caused by vaping in New York have been linked to the use of any legal products.

In addition, Cuomo has said he’ll introduce a bill to ban flavored electronic cigarettes, saying they are too appealing to children.

“I’m going to be proposing legislation for the new Legislature that will ban flavored e-cigarettes,” Cuomo said on Sept. 9. “It’s attracting thousands of young people to the activity.”

Studies have indicated that up to one-quarter of teens have vaped, although smoking of combustible cigarettes has decreased dramatically in the past several years. 

President Donald Trump said this week that he will ask the federal Food and Drug Administration to outlaw flavored e-cigarettes, which would supersede any state laws on the products. 

The vaping industry is pushing back, saying that their nicotine products have not been implicated in the disease outbreak and are safer than smoking cigarettes.

Spike Babaian is on the board of the New York State Vapor Association, and an owner of four e-cigarette stores in New York City. She says ending the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and allowing only non-flavored ones also would be a mistake.

“Less than 5 percent of people use tobacco flavors,” said Babaian. “So 95 percent would not have access to the products that they depend on to keep from smoking.”

Babaian says customers don’t want products that taste like cigarettes because they are trying to keep away from smoking.

“Most people don’t want to be reminded of what a cigarette tastes like,” she said. “A lot of us haven’t smoked in more than 5 or 10 years.”

The American Vaping Association, in a statement, said Trump’s re-election could be threatened by his stance against flavored e-cigarettes. The group said in the history of the U.S., prohibition has never worked and would only strengthen black-market sales.

Cuomo also signed a bill Thursday passed by the Legislature earlier this year to include warnings against vaping in school-based tobacco prevention programs. And Cuomo signed an executive order to extend the cautions against vaping to any smoking cessation programs connected to state agencies.

The actions come as New York’s laws will soon make it harder for younger people to buy nicotine vaping products. In December, the age for purchase will be raised from 18 to 21.