Mayor Bloomberg has made public health a priority and in the process, he has gained quite a few critics and even enemies. His latest stunt is much different than the soda bans of 2012. This time, he’s after electronic cigarettes.
According to recently leaked documents, the Bloomberg administration is working to group e-cigs in with other tobacco products and ban all flavored e-cigarettes completely. The ban is hidden within three tobacco bills that are circulating through the City Council. The content of these documents is really stunning.
First, Bloomberg is trying to change the legal age for buying tobacco to 21. Next, he wants to ban cigarette ads from all retail stores. Then he wants to go after the smoker’s pocketbook by making the price floor $10.50 per pack of cigarettes and outlaw the use of tobacco coupons.
Of course, electronic cigarette fans won’t escape unharmed. Bloomberg is trying to limit flavored e-cigs to “tobacco bars” and prohibit convenience stores from selling any flavored e-cig apart from tobacco and menthol.
E-cigarette users and supporters have been speaking out against the proposed changes. One of the vocal opponents is Dr. Michael Siegel, the professor of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. He is been a public supporter of e-cigarettes for a while and he was very unhappy to hear of Bloomberg’s plans.
He said, “This is a de facto ban on electronic cigarettes… Pretty much all electronic cigarettes are flavored; they’re essentially flavored products. You’re basically telling a bunch of ex-smokers to go back to cigarettes.”
Bloomberg’s bill refers to the same old arguments against electronic cigarettes that everyone uses. It mentions that 8.4% of high school kids tried e-cigs last year and that number was up by 40 percent from the previous year. It argues that by restricting e-cig displays, it will keep teenagers from using them and keep the next generation from being addicted to nicotine.
The bill also claims that e-cig marketing is “often designed to deter smokers from quitting and to attract youth.” Dr. Siegel was appalled to read those statements in the draft. “It’s an inane statement and there’s no support for it… it’s crazy!”
The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) was the first to leak the bill and the organization has been proactively fighting against Bloomberg’s proposed changes. Legislative director and attorney Gregory Conley said he was really surprised to see the bill after attending a May meeting with the city council.
“Approximately 20 e-cigarette users spoke before the Health Committee and it was strongly implied by the Council members that the ordinances would be amended to protect consumer access to low-risk alternatives,” he said.
Apparently, the council members were just “blowing smoke” (no pun intended!) and they still planned to go after e-cigarettes despite testimony from e-cig users at the May meeting. Ultimately, if the bill passes, Bloomberg will successful ban the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes and e-liquid in NYC. This would be a terrible move in terms of public health as smokers that had previously relied on flavored e-cigarettes will have no more alternative to tobacco. Many will start smoking again, which will in turn lead to serious disease and even death for NYC residents.
If you are a resident of NYC, you can learn how to take action against the bill here. Do you think Mayor Bloomberg will successfully ban flavored e-cigarettes? What will the long-term impact be for the city’s vapers?