UPDATE2 3:02 p.m. with comments from Thomas Kiklas, co-founder of The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA)
UPDATE 2:39 p.m.: Includes comments from Greg Conley, Legislative Director for Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA)
Leaked drafts of three New York City tobacco bills show an e-cigarette ban could be on the horizon.
It’s no secret Mayor Michael Bloomberg is on a crusade to stop New York City residents from smoking, with proposed anti-cigarette legislation to hide packs, ban coupons, and raise the tobacco age to 21. But it turns out e-cigarettes are also unexpectedly on the chopping block.
In a newly leaked draft of three tobacco-related bills soon to be voted on by the NYC City Council, the new definition of “tobacco products” under city law would be changed to include e-cigarettes and related components, parts and accessories.
Convenience store industry veteran tobacco consultant Lou Maiellano, president of Sevierville, Tenn.-based TAZ Marketing & Consulting Group, told Convenience Store Decisions that, “In light of recent research and its finding on electronic cigarettes, this proposal is simply absurd,” he said. “It makes me glad I live in Tennessee, where we don’t have to deal with this.”
If the New York City ordinances pass, the display of e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco would be banned in retail stores, Fox News reported.
The documents were leaked by the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), an advocacy group aimed at raising awareness and protecting rights to access to reduced harm alternatives. What’s more, while tobacco and menthol flavored e-cigarettes would still be available in retail stores, all other flavored e-cigarettes could only be sold in age-restricted “tobacco bars.” Unfortunately, New York City prohibits the operation of “tobacco bars” unless they were already in operation prior to Dec. 31, 2001.
In May, an official from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene stood before the Council Health Committee and stated that it was not their intention to regulate e-cigarette or ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Greg Conley, legislative director for Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), told Convenience Store Decisions today that approximately 20 e-cigarette users spoke before the Health Committee and it was strongly implied by the Council members that the ordinances would be amended to protect consumer access to low-risk alternatives.
“For three months, there was silence from the Mayor’s office, the Department of Health, and the City Council on the e-cigarette issue,” Conley said. “Now, with local media attention focused on the Mayoral race and other issues, a new draft of the ordinances has been leaked. The new drafts completely ignore the written and verbal comments made by e-cigarette users. Worse, the new drafts absurdly claim that e-cigarette marketing is designed to deter smokers from quitting, despite the fact that clinical trial and survey data show that e-cigarettes help smokers quit.”
Conley also indicated that the city’s effort to target e-cigarettes alone may not have had enough support. “Mayor Bloomberg’s office likely realizes that a standalone bill to stringently regulate the sale of e-cigarettes would be a tough sell,” he said. “It appears that the Bloomberg administration is banking on the City Council rubber stamping their new ordinances, the passage of which would constitute a backdoor, unannounced ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and e-cigarette liquid in New York City. Banning flavored e-cigarettes will do absolutely nothing to protect public health. Indeed, considering the clear evidence that e-cigarettes are helping smokers quit or greatly reduce their cigarette consumption, restricting availability could lead less smokers to quit.
Like Maiellano, Conley called New York’s effort puzzling. “Electronic cigarettes are one of the most significant public health and technological breakthroughs of the last half-century and it would be a terrible mistake for the NYC Council to enact these ordinances.”
Thomas Kiklas, co-founder of The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA), said the proposal by New York City is shortsighted.
“Four Million Americans are now using the electronic cigarette and its sales are projected to reach a billion dollars by year’s end and quadruple in the coming years. For many, the electronic cigarette is new technology but for us, the electronic cigarette industry, our origins date back to 2007,” Kiklas told Convenience Store Decisions. “There are now over 30 scientific studies on the electronic cigarette and in not one has there ever been found any contaminant that is at any level harmful to humans. The City of New York has the public’s well being as their responsibility and has a fiduciary duty to perform full due diligence on the electronic cigarette and its current science prior to any vote or even public comments on any upcoming action. By mitigating or even banning the sales of the electronic cigarette (the city cannot legally ban the sales of e-cigs as they are regulated as a tobacco product by the FDA) sadly shows they have a conclusion in search of any fact to support their intended outcome.”
The bill, which can be viewed in its entirety at http://www.scribd.com/doc/158711129/Updated-New-York-City-Council-Ordinance-to-Ban-E-Cigarette-Flavors claimed, “Electronic cigarette marketing is often designed to deter smokers from quitting and to attract youth.” It cites a study in Florida that found 8.4% of high school students had tried an e-cigarette last year, a 40% increase from 2011.
The bill further noted, “The Council therefore finds that increasing the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21 years of age will reduce smoking, tobacco and electronic cigarette use by youth and young adults and decrease the likelihood that members of this cohort will become smokers or electronic cigarette users later in life.”
“This is a de facto ban on electronic cigarettes,” a community health professor told Gothamist, as quoted by New York Magazine. “Pretty much all electronic cigarettes are flavored; they’re essentially flavored products. You’re basically telling a bunch of ex-smokers to go back to cigarettes.” He called the plan a “public health disaster.”