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NY vaping community fumes over Cuomo's proposed flavored e-cig ban

NY vaping community fumes over Cuomo’s proposed flavored e-cig ban

Members of the vaping community protested Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes Tuesday saying the move will cut thousands of jobs and will force long-time smokers, who used flavored vapes to kick their habit, back to traditional cigarettes.

“Lives were saved by watermelon and strawberry,” said Spike Babain, a board member with the New York State Vapor Association, in between puffs of a peach flavored vape that’s kept her off cigarettes for over a decade.

The NYSVA — a trade group representing 700 independent vape shops across the state, nearly 4,000 of their employees and hundr of thousands of customers — held a series of events across the state to fight the ban Cuomo proposed on Sunday. It went into effect late Tuesday after the Public Health and Health Planning Council voted to implement it.

New York vape shops and bodegas have a two week grace period before enforcement begins but are immediately barred from selling all flavored vape products until the order expires in 90 days. If they’re caught with any flavored e-liquids, retailers will be fined $2,000 per unit.

“We are a scapegoat,” Babain told The Post.

“Hundr of thousands of New Yorkers were able to quit smoking with these products. You are about to close off their access to these products that keep them from smoking cigarettes.”

Matthew Elliott, 28, protested the ban because without flavored vapes, he said he wouldn’t have been able to kick his three pack a day habit smoking Newport 100s.

“Adults like flavors,” Elliott explained. “Your taste doesn’t stop when you become an adult.”

Reinaldo Caban, a 30-year-old corrections officer from the Bronx, said he kicked his tobacco habit using a strawberry lemon flavored e-cigarette.

“Vaping’s a way of life,” Caban said, adding he’ll now be traveling to another state to get his flavored vape products.

“I feel 100 times better [since quitting cigarettes]. I could move around comfortably, I could walk, I don’t smell like cigarettes, I don’t stink, you know?”

The protests come as the patient count for vaping illnesses in New York jumped to 74 on Tuesday– up from 64 last Friday.

But the NYSVA and other critics said the vast majority of vaping illnesses in New York and across the country — some 380 people according to the CDC — are from black-market marijuana vapes, not flavored e-cigarettes and nothing has conclusively linked flavored vapes to the illnesses yet.

New York’s Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said 73 out of the 74 illnesses in New York are from marijuana vapes and only one is purportedly linked only to nicotine. However, Zucker acquiesced they might not have the full story from the patient and are still investigating that particular case.

Cuomo said his proposed ban isn’t about the illnesses, but is in response to a growing number of kids who report using e-cigarettes — a problem that has been burgeoning for several years.

He said vapes with candy and fruit flavors are directly targeting kids and must be taken off the market.

The NYSVA argued that would have a devastating effect on the vaping economy in New York.

“The ban of a product category, flavored vapor products which represent 90 percent of vape shop sales, would force the immediate closure of every Main Street America ‘mom and pop’ vape shop in New York, forcing them into sudden business and personal bankruptcy and cause the layoffs of all their employees,” the association said in a statement.

Babain said the flavors aren’t for kids and are used by adult former smokers who prefer a fruity vapor puff over the taste of a combustible cigarette.

“Vape shops have not been selling to minors. Seventy-three percent of minors who use e-cigarettes are getting them from friends or relatives,” Babain said.

“It’s not about marketing and selling to children. It’s about lack of law enforcement.”

Charlene Harris, who owns two vape shops in upstate New York, said she’ll have to fire half of her 12 person team and will lose $100,000 in investments under the ban.

“There will be black market e-liquid, people will be manufacturing this in their basements, in their bathrooms, wherever they can,” Harris told state health officials.

“Prohibition does not work.”

Stewert Bowers, 50, manages VapeNY in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He said his customers range in age from 30 to 85 and he never has kids coming into his store.

“My customers are losing flavors because some nose-picker is using a product?” Bowers fumed.

“Parenting is the problem, not the product.”