By Jennifer Roback, News Editor
Last year, there were 54 deaths that were reportedly linked to the use of electronic cigarettes, which are otherwise known as e-cigarettes.
The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping as it is popularly referred to, has been marketed in recent years as an option that is less harmful than menthol cigarettes. Across the country, e-cigarettes can be found at vape shops or in local convenience stores.
One of the largest companies in the vaping industry is Juul Labs, which is valued at $15 billion. According to its website, Juul’s mission statement is to, “improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.”
Yet as the controversy over vaping continues to play out around the country, the New York City Council voted last November to ban e-cigarettes withflavors such as cotton candy, mint,watermelon, and blueberry. The new rule won’t take effect until July.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is also seeking to have those products banned across New York state to prevent young people from accessing them.
The effort to ban the flavored non-tobacco products is happening after the New York’s health department announced last November that a second person in New York, who was onlyidentified as a man in his 30s, suffered a vaping-related death.
In the face of more regulation, local vaping retailers are defending their industry and are taking a wait-and-see approach as to what could happen in the future.“It’s going to affect the business very much as we can only watch and wait day-by-day,” said Roman Mantis, manager of Brooklyn Smoke in Prospect Heights. “I am a smoker. My body needs nicotine and if you’re vaping in moderation, nothing bad is going to happen. It’s the stupidity of people that are causing a loss of business to many smoke shops. And if e-cigarettes and vaping go away, then people will go back to cigarettes and cause more people to have cancer.”
However, last November, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention noted that Vitamin E Acetate is a “strong culprit” in the 39 deaths and thousands of lung injuries that have occurred as a result of vaping.
The most common way in which vaping products are obtained is online. For companies like VapeNY, even with multiple locations throughout the city including Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, its website is crucial to its business.
For anyone who logs onto the website of VapeNYC or Juul, an alert immediately pops onto the screen that cautions that users must be 21 years old. But despite this warning, the identify of someone who orders online is impossible to depermine. And so, vaping products can still fall into the hands of those who are underage, critics point out.
But some argue that the notoriety surrounding vaping could also impact the broader cannabis industry. “The controversy has started to affect our sales,” said Zach Goldstein, the director of Business Development for Hemp Gardens, which sells a variety of products at stores in Manhattan and online. “The sad part is that we take pride in our products using the best oils and people don’t trust the good products that we put out.”
Despite all of the latest developments in New York, both supporters and critics of vaping are waiting to see if anything will happen on a national level. Last November, after previously indicatingthat it would push for a ban on flavorede-cigarettes, the White House has now backed away from the proposed move.