Vaping Debate in New York City: Lawmaker Wants Ban on Flavored E-Cigs, Vapers Disagree

vaporCosta Constantinides, a New York City Councilman from Queens, wants to ban flavored electronic cigarettes. The reason, he says, is that the flavors appeal to children, and they could push them into smoking at an early age.

The reason for Constantinides’s proposed ban relies on research from a National Youth Tobacco Survey, which revealed that the number of high school students who had used electronic cigarettes increased from 4.7% in 2011 to 10% in 2012.

Constantinides also argues that vaping, as use of electronic cigarettes is called, could lead to more kids smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Part of the reason for the appeal, according to Constantinides, is the variety of flavors available on the market, all with candy-like names.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia agrees with Constantinides’s assertion, arguing that adults aren’t meant to want products with names like “Cherry Crush, Chocolate Treat, Peachy Keen, [and] Vanilla Dreams,” he says.

New York City was the first major city to ban vaping in public places where smoking is also banned. The measure drew criticism from vaping advocates, and now they say that the effort to ban flavored e-cigs reveals that lawmakers are missing some very crucial facts.

For one, Jacob Sullum writes for the New York Daily News, “it’s already illegal to sell e-cigs to minors.”

Sullum points out that 90% of those teens who tried e-cigarettes were already cigarette smokers. But even if just a few of them make the switch to vaping from smoking, they could reduce the health risks brought on by tobacco.

And a 2013 survey of 1,300 college students found that just one had tried e-cigs before tobacco cigarettes — not really a “gateway,” according to researchers.

“There’s a lot that’s unknown about whether E-cigarettes are harmful or not. It’s more of a social perception without any known facts. But we do know that vaping does not have the harmful effects of the tar in a cigarette. Projections are that in three to five years more people will be vaping than smoking due to the combination of health benefits and increased knowledge about how e-cigarettes are supposed to work,” says Carol Skarlat, Chief Technology Officer, Vapor4Life.

Other advocates for vaping also highlight the popularity of flavored e-cigs. Last summer, the E-Cigarette Forum conducted a survey that revealed that around 75% of adult “vapers” preferred flavors other than tobacco in categories such as fruit (31%), bakery/dessert (19%) and savory/spice (5%).

Sales data from a Palm Beach chain that sells vaping equipment to adults in its 14 stores also confirmed that flavors lawmakers refer to as juvenile are among the most popular sellers. Last fiscal year, tobacco flavors ranked 18th and 19th in top sellers of e-liquid below popular choices like strawberry, watermelon and cinnamon.

The E-Cigarette Forum survey also revealed that non-tobacco flavors helped as many as two-thirds of tobacco cigarette users quit. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published data that indicated that flavor can play a role in quitting smoking.