State Police and Department of Health Partner to Immediately Ramp up Enforcement Efforts Against Retailers Who Sell to Underage Youth - Possibility of Criminal Penalties
Advances Legislation to Eliminate Deceptive Marketing of E-Cigarettes to Children and Underage Youth
DOH Commissioner Dr. Zucker Will Hold Emergency Meeting with PHHPC to Ban E-Cigarette Flavors
Governor Cuomo: "I don't think it's an outrageous parallel to say look at the work we're doing now with the opioid companies. They sold pain medication that they knew was highly addictive, that they circulated, they advertised, they distributed. It created hydrocodone, oxycontin, it created addictions in the users, which then provided their business relationship with more customers. Get the customer addicted and they will keep coming back. That tobacco, cigarettes and now these vaping e-cigarettes, it's still nicotine. And nicotine is what's addictive. Even putting aside the other products that might be added - THC, Vitamin E - the nicotine in and of itself is the addictive drug and that is what they are selling."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced an emergency executive action to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes in New York State - the latest in a series of actions to combat the increasing number of youth using vape products, largely driven by e-cigarette companies marketing flavors that are intended to get children addicted to nicotine. DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker will hold an emergency meeting with the Public Health and Health Planning Council, or PHHPC, this week to ban flavored e-cigarettes. The Governor directed State Police and DOH to immediately partner to ramp up enforcement efforts against retailers who sell to underage youth, with the possibility of criminal penalties. Finally, the Governor announced he will advance legislation to ban deceptive marketing of e-cigarettes to teens and children.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning, allow me to introduce who is with me. To my far right is the Superintendent of the State Police Keith Corlett. To my immediate right, Dr. Howard Zucker Health Commissioners for the state of New York. To my left is Beth Garvey, special counsel and senior advisor to me.
We are here today to talk about vaping. It is a topic that has gotten a lot of attention and it should. There has also been a lot of confusion and a lot of hype on the issue. So, let's start by separating fact from fiction. There are two facts that are central to this issue and they are incongruous but they are not inconsistent. The first fact is that vaping is dangerous, period. Vaping is dangerous for several reasons. First, at a minimum it is addicting young people to nicotine at a very early age and nicotine is highly addictive. It doesn't even matter what product you are using. It is getting young people addicted to nicotine.
Second, we do not know the long term health effects of the use of this product. Why? Because there has been no long term study. So, no one can sit here and say long term use of vaping, where you are inhaling steam and chemicals deep into your lungs, is healthy.
Third, the e-cigarettes and the vaping devices are often used to vape other substances -THC, Vitamin E acetate. And many of these other products have not controls on them whatsoever. So called counterfeit products, they are not cleared by the FDA. There has been no analysis of them at all. So, vaping is dangerous.
Second fact, vaping is better than smoking. Technically yes, but so what? Smoking is terrible. It is virtually a high risk, potential death situation. Well, vaping is better than that. Yes but again that is not saying much. The vaping companies use that fact to say we are relevant and we are in the public interest because we want to get people to stop smoking, and vaping and e-cigarettes is the way to get them to stop smoking.
No, there are much better ways to stop smoking than vaping. There are patches. There are lozenges. There are gums. There are therapy sessions. There are medications. There's a whole host of ways to stop smoking, which are better for you than vaping. The only situation, in my mind, factually, that justifies vaping, is if you had a person that said, "I currently smoke, and I have tried every other device to stop smoking. I've tried everything. Nothing has worked, except vaping." That is the only situation that logically justifies vaping.
So, two facts, vaping is dangerous. It's addicting millions of young people to nicotine at a very early age. Some would argue earlier than cigarettes actually introduced young people to vaping and nicotine. Second fact, it is better than smoking, and if there were no other options to stop smoking than vaping is a better alternative. Just the numbers on young people. In four years, the percentage of high school users who use e-cigarettes and vaping has increased 160 percent. 40 percent of 12th graders now vape. 27 percent of high school students are vaping, okay? And remember, vaping is nicotine and nicotine is highly addictive.
So, with these facts in mind, what is the prudent policy going forward? First, you want to say, "We should ban all flavors besides tobacco and menthol." 68 percent of the use of flavored products, and the flavored products are highly attractive to young people. Names like, "Bubblegum," "Cotton Candy," "Captain Crunch," which was my favorite. These are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people. We will ban all flavors besides tobacco and menthol. There is a debate about whether or not menthol should be banned, and Dr. Zucker and I have discussed this. Dr. Zucker feels at this point he is not yet ready to ban menthol. Why? There is some data that suggests for menthol cigarette smokers, again who have tried every other device to stop smoking. They tried the lozenges. They tried the medications. They tried everything. Nothing else worked - a very limited pool - and they're trying vaping. The menthol flavor for the vaping helps menthol cigarette smokers.
The menthol flavor for the vaping, helps menthol cigarette smokers. So at this point, Dr.Zucker's recommendation is not prepared to recommend banning menthol. But the Department of Health is going to continue study, consultations with the Public Health and Health Planning Council and that could change in the future. But at this point he's not ready to recommend banning menthol.
Second, we're going to propose legislation next year that will ban advertising directed toward young people. Ironically, current vaping companies that were subject to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement are already prohibited from marketing tobacco products to young people. New companies that were not part of the Tobacco Settlement in 1998 are not so prohibited. We would pass a law in this state that says all such companies are prohibited from marketing to young people.
Third, the law is clear. You cannot sell these products to people under 18-years-old. It is theoretically a criminal offense to be selling these products to people under 18-years-old. It is also patently obvious when you say that 40 percent of the 12 graders report vaping and e-cigarette use that people under 18 are purchasing these products.
The State Police Superintendent Corlett is going to be working hand in glove with DOH Commissioner, Department of Health Commissioner, Zucker to coordinate their efforts to crack down on stores that are selling products to people under 18-years-old. The state has a number of tools in their toolbox in this situation. These stores that sell these products often have other state licenses. They may be licensed lottery sales offices. They may be SLA, State Liquor Authority, licensed to sell beer or alcohol in those establishments. So if they are found in violation, and again that is a possible criminal sanction, endangering the welfare of a minor for selling under 18. But beyond that there are civil fines, civil penalties, and they can lose other state licenses. But that crackdown is going to be aggressive and it is going to start now.
The 18-year-old limit will be raised to twenty-one in a few weeks, November 13. So right now, the legal limit is 18. That's being raised to 21 this November 13. And we want to make sure all the sellers and the public know that that's going to happen.
So we're going to be taking those actions. The way they are implemented is Dr. Zucker will make a recommendation to the Public Health and Health Planning Council, they have the ability to issue emergency regulations, which could go into effect as soon as about two weeks, that we do the ban. And Dr. Zucker's advice, which I think is correct, is this is a burgeoning health crisis, take action now.
Also, learn from the past. Learn from the past. 1964 the Surgeon General does a report that links cigarettes to cancer - 1964. We wind up taking action against the tobacco companies in 1998, where we have the main tobacco settlement with provisions that they could not advertise, et cetera. Millions of people died. Billions of dollars were spent. Many of these companies are related to tobacco companies that have a new device to sell nicotine, which addicts the user to come back and continue to buy their product. It is the tobacco cigarette model all over again. Try it, get addicted to nicotine and now you are a customer for life.
In my mind I don't think it's an outrageous parallel to say look at the work we're doing now with the opioid companies. They sold pain medication that they knew was highly addictive, that they circulated, they advertised, they distributed. It created hydrocodone, oxycontin, it created addictions in the users, which then provided their business relationship with more customers. Get the customer addicted and they will keep coming back. That, tobacco, cigarettes and now these vaping e-cigarettes, it's still nicotine. And nicotine is what's addictive. Even putting aside the other products that might be added - THC, Vitamin E - the nicotine in and of itself is the addictive drug and that is what they are selling.
One other point. Well where is the federal government? Who knows where the federal government is. And that's just a general statement, right? First, we heard signals that maybe the administration understood this and they were going to be responsive. Then we get a tweet suggesting the exact opposite. I'm not waiting for the federal government to come protect the people of the State of New York. I've been disappointed time and time and time again. The political influence of these companies is not to be underestimated. These are very powerful business interests. If you listen to their spokespeople, they threaten the president politically with the power of their user, customer base, which is now addicted. So, I'm not relying or waiting for the federal government. I don't expect them to do anything responsibly, to act responsibly, because I've never seen them act responsibly. So, our destiny is in our own hands, and we're taking action.