How would one describe the attitude towards vaping and e-cigarettes in New York? The short answer is: it's difficult. The long answer is, it's been a long time coming, but with Governor Andrew Cuomo coming forward with his disdain towards our industry and the "risk" that it poses to public health, it might just be the nail-in-the-coffin in determining the fate of the state.
The Governor just proposed the 2019 Executive Budget that lays the foundation for crippling the vapor industry throughout the state. While BLVK Unicorn fully supports the protection and overall well-being of our industry, some of the proposed legislation will most likely NOT hold the intended effect on the population. We'll outline the proposal and include our thoughts on each aspect below:
Establish Tobacco 21 Law
- The NY State government wants to follow suit with the countless other counties and states nationwide in enacting a Tobacco 21 law that will raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) from 18 to 21.
- BLVK Unicorn operates out of California, which is another state that has a Tobacco 21 law in place. While we can support this for the state on a business perspective, one has to be aware that Tobacco 21 seeks to completely alienate roughly 3.06% of the adult smoking population between the ages of 18 and 21. In case you forgot, 18 is still the legal age to be an adult and to strip legal adults of the freedom of choice can be argued as unconstitutional.
- Removal of tobacco and e-cigarette products in pharmacies
- Pharmacies sell tobacco cessation products which provides smokers an alternative and the message that tobacco products are safe. The NY government seeks to remove these products from pharmacies as the removal will reduce the availability, visibility, and social acceptability of tobacco use, especially to youth.
- Okay, this is where we do not agree with the legislation here. Again, following the point above, tobacco products are intended for those that are legally allowed to smoke. By default, the youth should NEVER have access to our products. Removing tobacco products, particularly that of e-cigarettes from pharmacies would only hurt the legal smoking population. Again, this is limiting the freedom of choice for adults.
Implementing Display Restrictions
- New York will prohibit the display of tobacco products and packaging, including e-cigarettes, in all retail stores that not adult-only. The reasoning behind this is that the practice will reduce youth exposure to predatory marketing practices.
- As long as the legislation applies to non-adult-only establishments. Convenience stores and pharmacies should be affected by this rule. The problem here is that should the legislation pass and go into effect, this precedent would pave the way for harsher display restrictions. It's only a matter of time before adult-only establishments like your local vape shop, will fall prey to this.
- Implementing Sale Restrictions
- New York has the highest cigarette tax in the nation, standing at a whopping $4.35 for a pack of cigarettes. Tobacco and e-cigarette manufacturers (let's be real, it's really the tobacco manufacturers) circumvent this tax by holding discounts such as "Buy One Get One Free", essentially lowering profit margins and depriving the state of tax revenue.
- Taking the standard of living for New York city into consideration and combining it with the rest of the New York state counties, the median income for the average adult is $64,894, roughly $5000 above the national average. We as a company don't have an opinion on this particular proposal, but again, it is worth noting, while children will always seek access to products not intended for them, to impose a sale restriction that will effectively make the price of acquiring these products higher, the state will be limiting access and availability to those that can afford it.
- Granting the Department of Health jurisdiction to ban flavored e-liquids
- The budget proposal outlines jurisdiction for the state Health Department to outlaw the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to curb youth exposure.
- This proposal is unfounded. The logic here is to prevent the youth access, which yes, it is a massive problem. It's important to consider however that the youth will always find ways to acquire these products. As for the tens of millions of legal smokers out there, the removal of flavors only hurts them. Not so much the kids, not so much the government, but the adult smokers whom 95% of them rely heavily on flavored e-liquids to effectively make the switch over from cigarettes.
- Establishing a licensing system for retailers
- Currently the sale of e-cigarettes is almost entirely unregulated. Restricting the sale to licensed retailers will allow the current enforcement infrastructure to ensure that minor do not purchase tobacco products.
- While this proposal follows suit that is generally required for retailers in the legal cannabis space, a common occurrence among retailers is the proliferation of the black market. Who's to say that the sale of tobacco products from unlicensed retailers will continue to stay down? Should this proposal reach widespread support, one can only hope the government is fully equipped to mitigate the black market.
Again, these are just our thoughts on the budget proposal. The NY state government is taking a hard-line stance on tobacco products and its vapor counterparts. While certain aspects of the proposal can help the state in the long run, this still hurts adult smokers from obtaining a viable alternative to combustible cigarettes. If you live in New York and want to get involved, hit up your city council representative and voice your concern. For updates on these anti-vaping proposals, you can join CASAA for free to get involved with the several calls-to-action.