Yet another shockingly unsurprising bit of news out of the Empire State, I know. Something they couldn’t ban, so they’re taxing the everloving expletive out of it instead.
After a handful of reportedly vaping-related hospitalizations and deaths (particularly among young people) rallied the gentry to grab their pitchforks and demand an end of the demon vapes, Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed an executive action banning all flavored “juice” or e-liquid products except for tobacco and menthol.
Which, you know, is a great idea if you want to add redundancy to a law already on the books that bans people under 21 from vaping and if you want to send thousands and thousands of adults back to cigarettes, all while undermining and insulting the legislative process for passing such laws in the state.
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Thankfully, vaping trade groups were able to launch a successful legal attack on Cuomo’s highly questionable ban with an appellate court panel imposing a temporary block on the ban.
The freeze on the ban, enacted just one day before the ban was set to take place, will remain until the Supreme Court in Albany decides the case brought by industry trade group Vapor Technology Association.
“We are very pleased with the New York State Appellate Division’s decision, which acknowledges the strength of our claims about the State’s executive overreach, and which preserves the ability of hundreds of small businesses to remain open and continue to serve their adult customers,” Tony Abboud, executive director of the association said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
So far, King Andy hasn’t gotten his way in going outside the legislative process in banning the sale of flavored vaporizer “juice” products, but long before the flavor ban was set to go into effect, he did what a New York politician does: he taxed it into oblivion and imposed another layer of bureaucracy on business owners.
“Effective December 1, 2019, a new 20% supplemental sales tax will apply to retail sales of vapor products in New York,” according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance. “The tax is collected by a vapor products dealer. Beginning on December 1, 2019, any business that intends to sell vapor products must be registered as a vapor products dealer before making sales of vapor products.”
In other words, yet another industry is likely to be muscled out of the state, seeking greener, less totalitarian pastures in which to do business, and folks who can’t afford to pay at least 20% more for their vaping needs (and, given my firsthand experience seeing it successfully used as a smoking cessation tool, I do say needs) will likely go back to smoking or resort to black market products.
Because that’s how prohibition (expletive) works.
And, thanks to the input from several New York vaping rights advocates, I’ve been made aware that the tax was imposed back in the spring, months before the flavor ban was even dreamed up. So, what is the real motive, here? Take a wild guess.
Now, many of y’all might be wondering why this is such a big problem. Vaping is weird and it’s apparently killing people, so maybe banning or severely restricting it is the one good thing New York has done?
No, not even close.
As I previously wrote, vaping liquids made with quality, industry self-regulated ingredients and used with proper devices are not killing people. Black market THC-laced products, which are already illegal in New York, are killing people, and even then they’ve killed few enough people to count on two hands among the tens of millions of vapers in the country.
Shy of a legitimately unbiased (read: not paid for by a tobacco company or any of its beneficiaries or political bedfellows) long-term study on the safety of vaping, the fact that folks have been doing it for over a decade without dropping dead (black market THC vapers notwithstanding) is good enough for any grown adult to consider when deciding what to put into their own damn bodies.
Furthermore, the NY flavor ban is pointless when it comes to its official purpose, which is to keep minors from vaping.
The Heartland Institute reports:
The Heartland Institute examined the effects of flavor bans, finding these measures to have no impact on youth e-cigarette use. For example, Santa Clara County, California, banned flavored tobacco products to age-restricted stores in 2014. Despite this, youth e-cigarette use increased. In the 2015-16 California Youth Tobacco Survey (CYTS), 7.5 percent of Santa Clara high school students reported current use of e-cigarettes. In the 2017-18 CYTS, this increased to 10.7 percent.
Further, flavors have helped millions of adults transition from combustible cigarettes to tobacco harm reduction products. Indeed, a 2018 survey of nearly 70,000 American adults noted that 83.2 percent and 72.3 percent of survey respondents reported vaping fruit and dessert flavors, respectively. Further, only 20 percent of respondents reported using tobacco flavors at point of e-cigarette initiation.
And, as the Heartland Institute continues, we all know what happens when just about anything is banned or overregulated: the black market will provide:
Further, such bans will likely produce a big uptick in business on black markets. A 2012 study in the journal Addiction found a quarter of menthol smokers surveyed would find a way to purchase, even illegally, menthol cigarettes if a ban comes into effect. Even worse, there is little evidence that such bans would help smokers to quit. A 2015 study in Nicotine & Tobacco Research concluded that only 28 percent of menthol smokers would give up cigarettes if menthol cigarettes were banned.
Albany County residents (and New Yorkers, in general) are already all too familiar with the crazy consequences (intended and unintended) that come with heavy regulations and taxes on tobacco products. Because of its exorbitant taxes, New York City is currently “the cigarette smuggling capital in the nation,” with a booming black market that was attributable to approximately $740 million in lost tobacco revenue in 2015. Albany County has also been subject to black markets, even without the proposed ban in place. As recently as October 11, 2019, New York state tax investigators “seized more than 7,4000 untaxed cigars and 3.6 pounds of untaxed loose tobacco” in Albany County.
In spite of the temporary block on the state’s flavor ban, Health Department executives remain optimistic that their chokehold on New Yorkers will only be momentarily loosened.
“While the court’s ruling temporarily delays our scheduled enforcement of this ban, it will not deter us from using every tool at our disposal to address this crisis,” said state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker according to the New York Post. “Make no mistake: this is a public health emergency that demands immediate action to help ensure the wellbeing of our children.”
So, just for a recap, repeat after me: black market products may have killed a handful of people, millions of people have been vaping for over a decade with no apparent issue, vaping is already illegal for children, flavor bans and exorbitant taxation will not keep minors from vaping, they will only hurt adults who rely on vaping to quit smoking and shop-owners who rely on it for their livelihood, and Andy Cuomo is an (expletive).
Disclosure: The husband of this writer is an avid vape user. He is also an ironworker, a former smoker, healthier than ever, and most definitely not a beta male named Kyle.
Edit: The 20% tax increase was not a result of the ban being blocked, as several kind readers let me know.