Governor Andrew Cuomo has backed raising New York’s smoking age from 18 to 21, and banning flavoured liquids.

The proposal would carry over to the legal purchase and consumption of e-cigarettes, and may be included in the 2019 budget. It is part of a wider effort on the Governor’s part to curb what he describes as a crisis of nicotine addiction: 

 “With this comprehensive proposal, we are taking aggressive action to combat this very real public health crisis and curb the use of nicotine products before they result in deadly consequences for an entire generation of New Yorkers.”

A statement released from the Governor’s office revealed a four-point plan, which has implications for the state’s vaping industry. It would make the following changes:

  • Ban the sale of any tobacco or e-cigarette products to anyone under the age of 21
  • Prohibit pharmacies from selling any tobacco or e-cigarettes
  • Prohibit retailers from displaying tobacco products if they allow children inside
  • Give the state Department of Health clear power to ban flavoured e-cigarette liquids

If implemented, New York would become the seventh US State to raise the smoking and vaping ages to 21, and the second most populous overall. 

Though 20 of New York’s counties and municipalities already have a smoking age of 21, this would be a state-wide change.

Previous attempts to raise the age on such a level have not made it past the legislature, despite support from the American Cancer Society.

Julie Hart, an ACS spokesperson and New York government relations director, praised the initiative:

“We must do more to protect low income residents from the tobacco industry and prevent our kids from being enticed by tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”  

New York’s vape shops and companies have already voiced some displeasure, including at the common categorisation of e-cigarettes as a “tobacco product” despite their common use in smoking cessation.

Tony Canestaro, an employee of Elmira’s Vapor NY, said it would affect sales somewhat, many of which go to smokers trying to quit.

“It will affect our sales a little bit just because we are a college town with Elmira College around the way…But a big portion of our sales are from people being sent here to stop smoking”

Michael Hughey, owner and CEO of Vapor NY, echoed this sentiment: 

“They [local shops and vapers] are going to be a little disgruntled, because it is a pretty big college town, I think they’re going to be a little mad about it.”

However, Vapor NY don’t foresee a large drop in sales ahead and aren’t worried, owing to the conviction that the vape trade’s prosperity doesn’t come from tobacco, but as an alternative to it. 

Giving the Department of Health the power to ban flavours, however, would be met with trepidation. Since it was first published two years ago, vaping advocates have cited recent research from Yale School of Public Health and the Centre for Health Policy at the Imperial College in London suggesting e-liquid flavours could be essential in helping smokers quit:

“…recent quitters display a preference for fruit/sweet flavored e-cigarettes, but not for other flavored e-cigarettes.” 

A similar study from the Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR) published last year made a similar case. 

“The results show that non-tobacco flavours, especially fruit based flavours, are being increasingly preferred to tobacco flavours by adult vapers who have completely switched from combustible cigarettes to vapour products.”