Is NY's Gov. Cuomo finally conceding that vaping is less harmful than smoking?

Amid the escalating outbreak of the coronavirus in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is said to be considering a six-week ban on the sales of combustible tobacco cigarettes.  In doing so, he hopes to flatten the curve and reduce the rising death count.  The ban could take effect as early as 11:59 PM tonight.  The smoking restrictions are expected to be included in a new budget measure scheduled to be announced today.

Surprisingly, the announcement is also expected to include a delay on the implementation of previously mandated restrictions on vaping products initiated last month and scheduled to go into effect this week.  The regulations would have made it more difficult for vapers to access electronic alternatives to combustible tobacco cigarettes. 

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Reading between the lines, the suspected forthcoming ban on tobacco cigarettes and the simultaneous delay of harsher vaping restrictions might be indicating that Governor Cuomo is softening his stance on vaping.  By not including vapor products in his proposed smoking ban, is the controversial New York politician finally conceding that vaping is safer than smoking?  Will Governor Cuomo become the first elected official in the U.S. to publicly confirm the validity of the 2016 research endorsed by the UK Royal College of Physicians that says vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking?

Governor Cuomo’s sorted past with vaping

In the early days of last year’s EVALI outbreak – a “vaping related” lung disorder later discovered to be attributed to black market THC cartridges – Governor Cuomo wasted no time in signing an anti-vaping emergency action intended to ban the sales of all flavored nicotine-based vape products statewide.  The Vapor Technology Association (VTA) in coordination with two vape shop chains, Perfection Vapes and Benevolent E-liquids Inc., immediately filed a lawsuit.  The plaintiffs claimed that the governor did not have the legal authority to systematically ban a commercial product that would threaten the closure of hundreds of New York vape shops.

In early October 2019, a New York appellate court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and temporarily blocked Cuomo’s emergency action.  However, Cuomo and his administration remained vigilant in their desire to eradicate the vaping industry throughout the state by taking their case to the state supreme court.  In January 2019, New York Supreme Court Justice Catherine Cholakis issued her ruling, upholding the lower court’s decision while striking down the Cuomo vaping ban permanently.

"Of course, nothing in this decision, order and judgment should be read as in any way trivializing the concern that the availability of flavored e-liquids may well be contributing to the spread of nicotine addiction among our youth.  Rather, this court's holding on the present motion is limited to the recognition that there is a likelihood that petitioners (the vaping industry) will ultimately succeed in proving that the emergency regulation is an impermissible administrative transgression into territory that is reserved to our Legislature by the state Constitution, " Judge Cholakis said in her official court ruling. 

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While Cuomo is believed to be giving vape products a free pass in the anticipated smoking ban regulations, many members of his administration are reportedly still pushing the governor behind the scenes to ban vapor products, as well.  Cuomo is also believed to be considering an additional line item that would suspend state sales taxes on conventional nicotine replacement therapies like patches, gums, and lozenges.

Is banning both smoking and vaping a good idea?

Cuomo faces a tough decision here.  If he bans both smoking and vaping, he will likely face considerable backlash from a New York citizenry that has already been on self-isolation lockdown for several weeks.  And just this weekend, President Trump extended the suggested coronavirus guidelines for another 30-days.  Banning smoking and vaping concurrently might tip an already over-stressed community over the proverbial edge. 

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