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Cuomo issues executive order to ban flavored e-cigarettes in NY 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker announce an executive order to ban flavored e-cigarettes in New York state.
Governor Cuomo's office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker announce an executive order to ban flavored e-cigarettes in New York state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to direct his health department to ban all flavored electronic cigarettes, in response to a vaping heath emergency that has sickened hundreds and killed six people.

The lung ailment, which has been contacted  by 64 New Yorkers, has so far been linked to black-market marijuana vaping products that also contain liquid vitamin E oil. But the governor says vaping of any substance is not a healthy practice and is addicting an alarming number of young people. Cuomo says vaping is better than smoking combustible cigarettes, but not by much.

“Vaping is better than smoking. Technically, yes, but so what? Smoking is terrible,” said Cuomo. “It is virtually a high-risk, potential death situation. Well, vaping is better than that. Yes, but again that is not saying much.”

Cuomo says vaping should only be used by adults who have tried other methods to quit including nicotine patches, nicotine laced gum, and therapy, to quit and have been unsuccessful.

Cuomo says his health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, will direct the Public Health and Health Planning Council to take steps to impose a ban on flavored e-cigarettes that are attractive to children.

“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,” Cuomo said . 

Menthol flavored e-cigarettes will still be allowed to be sold.

The American  Cancer Society , and the American Heart Association both issued statements Sunday afternoon saying the ban does not go far enough, and that menthol and mint-flavored e-cigarettes should also be included, because they are also attractive to children.

Zucker says there is some evidence that menthol flavors help people who are trying to quit regular cigarettes and have been unsuccessful with other methods, so he is not ready to ban those flavors.

The ban could take effect in as soon as two weeks. President Donald Trump has also said he wants to direct the federal Food and Drug Administration to ban flavored e-cigarettes nationwide, but Cuomo says he does not know for certain whether that will indeed happen. The governor says vaping has become a burgeoning health crisis, and he compares it to the tobacco epidemic of earlier decades and the current  opioid problem.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.