A consultant for the vaping industry has asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for an in-person meeting to find a “better solution to managing the vape industry” rather than the outright ban of flavored e-cigarettes.
Joel Giambra, a former Erie County executive consulting for a Kenmore-based wholesale e-cigarette distributor, told News 4 on Monday that the governor’s administration rushed to judgment by banning flavored e-cigarettes in the face of a rash of lung illnesses linked to vaping.
There have been at least 805 lung injuries reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 12 deaths, all associated with vaping, according to data published as of Sept. 27.
In support of the ban, the Cuomo administration cited the lung illnesses and a “deceptive belief” marketed by the e-cigarette industry that they are not harmful to users.
Giambra said the debate over the risks associated with vaping pens and cartridges has “become hysteria.”
“What the governor is doing here with prohibition is a disaster,” he said.
State health department statistics that show nearly 40 percent of high school seniors and 27 percent of high school students in New York are using e-cigarettes. That increase, the state says, is “largely driven by flavored e-liquids” like mint chocolate, cherry cola and bubblegum.
Although the rate of cigarette smokers among high school students dropped to a record low in 2016, the Cuomo administration believes the “aggressive marketing strategies” of flavored e-cigarettes could reverse the trend.
The CDC says that its latest findings from the investigation into the lung injuries found that products that contain THC “play a role in the outbreak.”
Cuomo has stopped short of legalizing marijuana, a move that Giambra said would likely reduce the risks of someone getting a contaminated THC cartridge.
E-cigarette liquid contains nicotine, flavorings and other additives whose long-term side effects are not known.
The state has banned all flavored e-cigarettes, except tobacco and menthol. Enforcement at retail stores is expected to begin Friday.
There are conflicting viewpoints on e-cigarettes in terms of health.
The American Lung Association deems e-cigarette unsafe.
But the American Cancer Society took a much less decisive position.
In 2018, the American Cancer Society said that based on currently available science, using e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but effects of long-term use are still unknown.
The society made it clear, however, that products that contain nicotine are unsafe for youth and that younger people who use e-cigarettes face an increased risk of becoming a long-term smoker of combustible tobacco products.
Giambra, in his Sept. 25 letter to Cuomo, said that strong arguments have been made from both sides of the debate.
One of his concerns is how the ban will impact the vaping industry in New York and the roughly 3,800 employees.
According to the Vaping Technology Association trade group which is suing to overturn the ban, the vaping industry is slightly larger than the iron and steel forging industry and employs almost as many workers as the commercial fishing industry.
“I’m hoping that he’ll respond,” Giambra said, “but if he doesn’t, we’re going to use whatever public pressure we can bring to bear to get the message out that this is the most inappropriate way to deal with keeping the product out of the hands of young people.”
New York was first in the nation to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, a week after President Trump’s administration signaled a federal ban was being discussed. The governor would have to renew the emergency ban every 90 days unless it is written into law.
“New York is not waiting for the federal government to act, and by banning flavored e-cigarettes we are safeguarding the public health and helping prevent countless young people from forming costly, unhealthy and potentially deadly life-long habits,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement.
Yet, Giambra said the industry needs the Cuomo administration to come to the table with industry leaders for an opportunity to find middle ground.
“What it’s going to do is cause about 200 people right here in Buffalo to be laid off, and a company that is producing about $1 million dollars a month in payroll to cease and desist their operations,” Giambra said about Magellan Technologies, the company for which he is consulting.