New York became the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes Tuesday, a move that comes as federal health officials investigate a mysterious surge of severe breathing illnesses linked to vaping. The vote by the state Public Health and Health Planning Council means the prohibition, which covers flavored e-cigarettes and other vaping products except for menthol and tobacco flavors, goes into effect immediately. Retailers will have two weeks to remove merchandise from store shelves, the AP reports. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, proposed the emergency ban Sunday, citing surging use among young people. According to data from the state health department, nearly 40% of high school seniors and 27% of high school students overall in the state use e-cigarettes. Use among high-school students went from 10.5% in 2014 to 27.4% in 2018.
The emergency regulation enacted Tuesday will expire in 90 days unless it's renewed. Cuomo has proposed legislation that would put the ban in state law, eliminating the need to renew the ban. Vape shop owners say they're considering a legal challenge to the new regulation, which they say should have gone before lawmakers for hearings, debate, and a vote. Several spoke at the meeting to urge council members to reject the ban. The owner of two vape shops in the Albany region said the ban could force hundreds of businesses like his to close. He said smokers looking to quit will have fewer options under the ban, potentially leading to an increase in the use of traditional tobacco products. As for the breathing illnesses, he said he believes they are the result of people buying black market vape liquid, not the items he sells. (Michigan is still working to enact a similar ban.)