New York Sued Over Ban on Flavored E-Cigarettes

Inam Rehman, manager of Jubilee Vape & Smoke Inc., vapes on Sept. 16, 2019, while discussing New York’s ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes amid growing health concerns. (AP photo/Bebeto Matthews)

ALBANY (CN) – Vaping companies sued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and several state agencies Wednesday, saying officials overstepped their authority when they imposed the country’s first ban on sales of flavored e-cigarette products.

The lawsuit was filed in Albany state court by the lobbyist group Vapor Technology Association, advocacy group Benevolent ELiquids Inc., and shop Perfection Vapes Inc. They seek an injunction preventing the state from enforcing the ban, saying their products are an important bridge for people who want to quit smoking more dangerous combustible cigarettes.

“Our children’s future is at stake. Bring it on,” said chief Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi in a statement Wednesday

The companies say the state went too far by invoking emergency powers in the situation, despite an outbreak of serious illnesses in vapers that have sickened hundreds nationwide and mystified health officials. President Donald Trump has also proposed a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Cuomo took executive action to initiate the ban.

Flavored e-cigarettes, often packaged to look almost like candy, are popular among young people despite being illegal for minors. But the companies argue there is no evidence a flavor ban will deter youth from e-cigs.

“E-liquids have been available in hundreds, if not thousands, of flavors since vapor products first gained traction in the United States over ten years ago, yet, according to respondents, the significant increase in illegal youth use of vapor products occurred only in the last several years,” the complaint states.

Under the ban, sellers have just a week left to remove the merchandise from their shelves.

The companies in the suit argue workers will lose jobs and their businesses will suffer. They also pointed out e-cigarettes help adults transition away from traditional cigarettes, which are more dangerous.

“Both extensive scientific research and the personal experiences of petitioners suggest that former smokers tend to rely on non-tobacco and non-menthol-flavored vapor products to avoid smoking combustible cigarettes,” the lawsuit states. “The extensive peer-reviewed scientific evidence suggests that adults of all ages prefer many categories of e-liquid flavors – including fruits, sweets, and cool flavors – and widely use non-tobacco- and non-menthol-flavored products.”

They cited a study they say concludes a ban on flavored vaping products would probably lead smokers to choose more harmful traditional cigarettes.

Victor Canastraro, owner of two of the petitioning companies, reported his customers appeared to slowly be weaning themselves off nicotine, the suit says, with 25 to 30% stopping smoking and vaping altogether.

New York’s ban was enacted despite public opposition and even though the Legislature tabled similar bills earlier this year, according to the complaint.

Juul Labs, a well-known vaping company, agreed Wednesday to stop advertising in the United States, and its CEO stepped down.

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