Friday, August 9, 2013

Breaking News: Tobacco Consultant Blasts NYC’s Silent War On E-Cigarettes

Convenience Store Decisions
CSD Staff

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.

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 enoguh 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.”

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