New York budget plan puts Big Tobacco (and Big Vape) in a corner

VapeAdmin

VapeAdmin

Administrator
The governor's proposed budget takes on Big Tobacco and Big Vape (often the same companies) and targets the schemes that make deadly nicotine products appealing to kids.

The "Comprehensive Tobacco Control Policy" outlined in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2020 budget tackles things that localities have tried, and failed, to make stick in the face of Big Tobacco.

Here's what the governor's budget plan would mean:
  • No more yummy strawberry vape juice, or other teen-centric flavors or product names.
  • No more big store display walls of bright-colored cigarette boxes and sleek e-cig pens and pods.
  • No coupons to get deals on deadly tobacco products.
  • No more tobacco for sale in any pharmacy.
  • A statewide minimum age of 21 to buy cigarettes, up from 18.
  • New licensing for e-cigarette vendors, similar to what tobacco sellers need, and an added 20 percent tax on vape sales.
Some of these things have already been legislated at the local level:
  • Rockland enacted a law that raised the age for purchasing tobacco to 21 in April; Westchester passed a similar law in June.
  • Rockland became the first county in the state to ban the sale of tobacco and e-cigarette products in pharmacies back in 2017; other counties have followed. Over the years, though, many pharmacists have come to their own conclusion that selling carcinogens was not good for their health-care business model.
The state will likely have more success in making certain laws stick, because New York has more muscle and money to fight any legal challenges from tobacco companies than small towns and villages.

That's how it played out in little Village of Haverstraw. Back in 2012, the village enacted a ban on those big displays of cigarettes at stores. It was the first such law in the nation. But Big Tobacco and the convenience store lobby sued, arguing that banning tobacco products from public sight violated their freedom of speech. Haverstraw dropped the law to avoid costly litigation. "We are a good candidate in their eyes because they are big bullies coming out against little guys," Haverstraw Mayor Michael Kohut said back then. "I believe in the intent of the law, but I'm not going to drive us to the brink of bankruptcy to defend this."


A Yonkers teen shows an e-cigarette kit. Electronic cigarettes have surpassed traditional smoking in popularity among teens, the government’s annual drug use survey finds.

Still, small places can spark big policy changes, said Denise Hogan, POW'R Against Tobacco's Rockland representative. She pointed to a 2012 law, the "Rockland County Multiple Dwelling Smoking Policy Act," which mandates that apartment complexes enact a policy that lets residents know where smoking is, and isn't, allowed. Soon after Rockland's law came out, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed through a similar law for NYC.

The state proposal would mandate a license for retailers to sell e-cigarette products, similar to the licenses they need to sell traditional tobacco products. But local governments are embarking on their own licenses to ensure where and how vaping products are sold, Hogan said. They are nicotine delivery systems, after all, and more teens are using them than actually smoking.

Local licenses for retail tobacco and vape sales accomplish different goals than a state licensing system. For example, tiny Dolgeville, a village in Herkimer County, just passed its own tobacco sale licensing regulations that restricts where retailers can be located, bans price promotions, like coupons, for tobacco or vape products and bans specialty vape and hookah shops in the village limits.


In May, members of POW’R Against Tobacco visited the Palisades Center in West Nyack to celebrate World No Tobacco Day, and cheer the mall’s one-year anniversary of banning smoking on its grounds. Denise Hogan, right, is coordinator of POW’R Against Tobacco in White Plains, a program of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.

Rockland legislators are considering similar legislation, Hogan said. "This decreases the number of retailers," Hogan said, "and puts them under the eye of the county." The licensing would allow a community to set limits on the location, number and type of tobacco retailers.

Bedford enacted a law last May that restricted the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems to a special business zone. A lawsuit aiming to overturn the ban was filed last month.

New Castle passed a law in 2017 that limits vape shop locations to at least 2,000 feet from a school's property and at least 500 feet from a park, playground, library or religious institution.

Hogan pointed to Rockland's history of curbing the convenience of tobacco use. In 2007, for example, the county was among the first to ban smoking in vehicles with minors aboard. That hard works shows in the statistics: Rockland has the lowest prevalence of adults who smoke in New York.

Tobacco sale restrictions on the state and local level likely won't dent the saturation of nicotine products for sale. "There's more tobacco retailers than there are Starbucks in New York state," Hogan said.

"Fifty-five years ago, the Surgeon General said tobacco was bad for you," Hogan, a lung cancer survivor, said. "Kids who would never had smoked a cigarette are vaping now. Vaping is smoking. It's nicotine."

Tobacco-related illnesses prematurely kill more than 28,000 New Yorkers a year, according to the state Department of Health, more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.

"New York has the opportunity to save lives, save money, and become the first state in the nation to create a tobacco-free generation," states the New York Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Book. Let's hope that comes true.
 

Latest posts

Members online

No members online now.
Top