A state appellate court has temporarily blocked Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ban on flavored vape pods, which was set to take effect today.
Following reports of vape-related lung illnesses, as well as data showing minors vaping at astounding rates, the governor signed an emergency executive order last month to ban all vape products except those with flavors that resemble actual cigarettes, in a move to crack down on the sweet, fruity flavors that appeal to children. The order gave stores a two-week grace period to get rid of all the offending inventory; enforcement would have begun today.
But the appellate court of Albany County blocked the measure after e-cigarette manufacturers’ groups, including the Vapor Technology Association, sued Cuomo to stop the law. The temporary stay is effective until October 18th, when both parties are set to meet again in court.
In a statement, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker vowed that the state would continue the vape crackdown. “While the court’s ruling temporarily delays our scheduled enforcement of this ban, it will not deter us from using every tool at our disposal to address this crisis,” he said. “Make no mistake: this is a public health emergency that demands immediate action to help ensure the wellbeing of our children.”
The executive order came amid a wide-ranging panic around e-cigarettes—one that was mostly unrelated to the flavored e-cigs sold by companies like Juul. Across the country, a reported 450 people have fallen sick and six have died from “vaping-related lung illnesses.” Experts have pointed to black market and counterfeit products, and specifically vitamin E used as an additive in large amounts, as a culprit.
Conventional e-cigarettes, which until recently seemed like a great way to quit smoking, are also raising alarms among health experts. The American Lung Association warns that e-cigarettes may contain such scary ingredients as vegetable glycerin and weedkiller. Furthermore, the FDA has no proof that e-cigarettes do in fact help wean cigarette smokers off nicotine altogether. Still, some experts counter that current cigarette smokers are still better off switching to e-cigarettes than continuing to get their fix the old-fashioned way.
For now, vape users hooked on fruity flavors are taking advantage of the reprieve.
Rachel, a Morningside Heights resident who asked for her last name to be withheld because she works in public health, said she took up vaping based on evidence that nicotine can have a beneficial impact on inflammatory bowel diseases, and it has worked for her. “I find the tobacco flavors totally disgusting, so I’m grateful for the ability to get that benefit in a way that tastes good,” she said. “Not having access to it is really going to suck.”
Recreational vape users are of course thrilled as well.
Ben Wasserman, a comedian from Brooklyn, told Gothamist, “I’ve bought up all the bottles of ‘grape (iced)’ in a 5 block radius.”
“They can take my flavored vapes,” Wasserman said, “but they can never take my vape-related lung illness.”