(Update – 04.03.20)
Overnight, the New York Assembly reluctantly passed S. 7506-B, a budget bill, which bans the sale of vapor products in flavors other than tobacco. Like much of New York’s budget, this bill was debated and passed under cover of darkness. There were no opportunities for the public to weigh in on the bill unless you diligently followed the constantly changing bill numbers and language. Following legislation with that level of detail often requires one to be able to afford a lobbyist and even then, it is still likely that people get lost in the mix.
While we acknowledge and appreciate Governor Cuomo’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, this budget represents a profound failure of leadership, a sweeping lack of compassion, and an assault on democracy in the state of New York.
Here’s what’s changing this year for people who vape in New York:
- Effective 45 days after being signed into law
- Sales of vapor products in flavors other than tobacco are prohibited.
- The prohibition does not apply to any flavored product that has received a premarket approval order (PMTA) from the Food and Drug Administration (this provision does NOT defer to the federal standard allowing manufacturers to market products for one year following FDA’s acceptance of their PMTA application).
- Effective July 1, 2020
- Pharmacies are no longer allowed to sell any tobacco or nicotine product that isn’t an approved smoking cessation therapy.
- Online sales are banned (vaping is folded into the same provision that bans shipment of cigarettes to consumers). The penalty for selling or shipping a vapor product to a consumer in NY is a Class A misdemeanor and carries a fine of $5000 or $100 per vapor product.
- A person other than a common or contract carrier can still transport vapor. products, but there is now a limit of 500 milliliters or 3 grams of nicotine.
- Coupons or “price reduction instruments” for tobacco products are banned.
- Vapor manufacturers must post a detailed ingredient list including a disclosure of “the nature and extent of investigations and research performed by or for the manufacturer concerning the effects on human health of such product or its ingredients.” Manufacturers are also required to list “each byproduct that may be introduced into vapor produced during the normal use of such e-cigarette.” NOTE: This requirement does not apply to any other tobacco product.
- Tobacco, nicotine, and vapor products and marketing materials visible in storefronts and ads on exterior windows are banned within 1500ft of a school (500ft for New York City).
It is tempting to say that these budget bills are being passed under dire circumstances and are necessary to keep the state functioning in the midst of a crisis, but all of this was introduced by Governor Cuomo well in advance of the coronavirus outbreak in New York. Even under normal circumstances, voters and lawmakers are hard pressed to amend or remove even the most egregious sections of the governor’s budget proposal. There are deep cuts and rollbacks to other programs and reforms that will arguably threaten the health and financial security of millions of New Yorkers and, again, all of this was on the table before anyone was recommending austerity measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
For thousands of New Yorkers, the next few months are now critical to stockpiling what vapor products they can afford. Following the July 1 deadline for removing flavored vapor products from the market, vapers and people interested in switching away from smoking will have to track down low-risk vapor products on an underground market. This outcome is historically a negative one as it exposes consumers (of any age) to an elevated risk of exposure to tainted products and fraud. But most importantly, Governor Cuomo’s budget promises to send thousands of New Yorkers of all ages back to smoking. In the midst of a global pandemic involving a respiratory illness that kills people who have underlying conditions such as COPD, asthma, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and other illnesses attributed to smoking, the actions of the legislature and Governor Cuomo are shameful.
CASAA urges our New York members to seek out other smoke-free alternatives rather than returning to smoking. Please see our materials describing other low-risk, smoke-free alternatives that will, for the time being, remain available to New York consumers. Products such as Swedish snus, nicotine pouches, and other smokeless tobacco products are well researched and provide similar benefits for people who switch completely away from smoking.