MANHATTAN (CN) — The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to ban the sale of flavored vape products, responding to a public health crisis where sweet-smelling mango and mint products are thought to target teen users.
“New York cannot and will not wait,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson, himself a former smoker who quit with the help of e-cigarettes.
Spearheaded by Councilman Mark Levine and co-sponsored by 31 fellow councilmembers, the bill comes after mysterious illnesses have hospitalized vapers and sickened nearly 2,300, leading to 47 deaths, according to the figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Levine lamented not having acted sooner.
“We did nothing as these sleek new devices with an intense dose of nicotine started to hit the shelves,” he said Tuesday at a meeting of the City Council. “We did nothing when Big Tobacco started to pump billions into the vaping industry. … As a result of our inaction, today there are 5 million teens in our country who are now vaping.”
In addition to banning flavors like mint, menthol and wintergreen from vape products, Levine’s bill includes a presumption that a person with more than six flavored e-cigarettes or 12 ounces of flavored liquid has an intent to sell.
The bill also instructs city health officials to conduct a public information campaign about devices that help people quit smoking.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office has said that he will either sign the bill or allow it to lapse into law.
Councilmen Kalman Yeger and Steven Matteo were the only two to vote against the ban, which passed with 42 votes and zero abstentions. On Monday, it unanimously passed the Council’s health committee.
In remarks before he voted, Yeger implied the city should ban marijuana instead.
“If ever there was a product that we ought to ban, it’s not the … vaping product that people are using in this city to stop smoking,” he said.
New York Governor Andew Cuomo banned flavored vape products in September by executive action, making the state the first to do so. But he was stymied last month by a temporary hold from a state appeals court.
Other states including Washington and Massachusetts have enacted bans in recent months, the former on flavored vape products and the latter on all e-cigarettes. Last week, the American Medical Association called for a total ban on vape products.
President Donald Trump had announced a ban on flavored vaping products in September but backpedaled under pressure from advisers who said it would anger voters.
“This is predominantly a crisis of young people,” Levine said in his remarks, “and I am so proud that today we are acting as a city to protect their health.”