New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg has proposed new legislation which, if enacted, would effectively ban the sale of flavored e-cigs and redefine “tobacco products” under the law to include them. Originally, it was supposedly not intended to address e-cigs, but when a draft copy was leaked it became abundantly clear that it would have sweeping and severe consequences for the growing industry.
The leaked ordinances first redefine “tobacco products” to include e-cigarettes and accessories, which is more than just a quirk of legislative language. For one, the additional rules added would mean that you would have to be 21 to buy them. In combination with the other proposed changes, e-cigarettes also could not be displayed openly in retail stores and could only be sold in their original packaging. This is understandably a detriment to the industry (“What? You want to advertise your product? You – a business?! No way!”), but the proposed legislation gets much worse.
Only tobacco, menthol, mint and wintergreen flavors would be available in a business which is not classified as an age-restricted “tobacco bar.” The only problem is that such tobacco bars are outlawed in New York unless they were in existence before the end of 2001 – which is two years before electronic cigarettes were even invented. Therefore, the real impact of the legislation is that the sale of flavored e-cigarette cartridges and e-liquids would effectively be banned in all but a handful of locations.
The following is a direct quote from the draft legislation: “Electronic cigarette marketing is often designed to deter smokers from quitting and to attract youth.” Reading this, it seems like a much bigger priority is enacting legislation that would prevent such a monumental amount of stupid to be crammed into one sentence. Putting it bluntly, this claim is unsubstantiated, unproven and completely freaking absurd.
As Michael Siegel notes in his blog post on the topic, “It defies logic that an electronic cigarette company would want its customers to continue smoking tobacco cigarettes.” As anybody who has ever been on an e-cigarette website will know, the purpose of e-cig marketing is to get people to do the exact opposite. We needn't even consider e-cigs specifically to see exactly why this is one of the most ridiculous things that’s ever been said about them. The assertion is that a company who sells Product A is marketing it with the specific aim of encouraging people to buy more of Product B, which is made by a completely different company. Yes, e-cig companies like blu Cigs have been bought by Big Tobacco, but this is because the tobacco industry is shrinking whilst the e-cig industry is booming. Tobacco is dying, and e-cigs are the thing that is killing it. They are not in cahoots.
The reference to “attracting” youth is used as a spurious justification for the ban of flavored liquids and cartridges. There is no evidence offered to support the assertion that children who don’t smoke cigarettes start regularly using e-cigs. In fact, there is existing evidence to the contrary. They cite a study from Florida, in which they found that 8.4 percent of high school students had tried an e-cig, but they don’t point out that only 3.5 percent had used one in the past month, and that the study makes no effort to determine whether those teens already smoked cigarettes. I’m guessing they did, since about 18 percent of teens surveyed in separate research had smoked a cigarette in the previous month. The contrary evidence referenced above was unable to find a single non-smoking teen who used e-cigs regularly but didn't smoke cigarettes previously.
As Michael Siegel also points out, e-cigs are essentially a flavored product. Adults like chocolate, bubblegum, strawberry, candy canes and pretty much anything sweet like everybody else does. Most adult vapers like a wide range of flavors, so banning flavored e-cigs is unnecessarily limiting the choices available to adults who don’t want to smoke tobacco anymore for no reason whatsoever. Apparently Mayor Bloomberg thinks that if you don’t want to die of cancer or stop smoking entirely, you aren't allowed nice flavors.
Another interesting quirk of the legislation is that the redefinition of “tobacco products” was handled extremely gingerly. According to the new definition, a tobacco product is “any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption, including any component, part, or accessory of such product.” Well, that would apply to things like nicotine gum, patches and inhalers, wouldn't it? Not if you add a little sentence explaining that products which are FDA-approved for use in smoking cessation aren't covered. Don’t worry, Big Pharma, NY still has your back.
CASAA Call to Action
If you live in NY, CASAA (the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association) has issued a call to action, and we strongly suggest you do what you can to protect your right to vape!