The vaping industry is putting pressure on New York State to quit its effort to ban the sale of flavored products. A ban approved by the Health Department's Public Health Council in September is set to take effect Friday, while a ban on menthol vaping products is being considered.
The state Health Department's Public Health Council is expected to meet this week before the ban begins. Vape shop owners and other industry representatives are expected to be there to turn up the heat.
The meeting comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the vaping industry seeking an injunction to prevent the state from prohibiting e-cigarettes and similar products.
"If you implement prohibition as a solution, it will blow up in everybody's face - no pun intended," said Joel Giambra, who represents a Buffalo vaping wholesaler. "It's not gonna work. People like this product, it's useful, they're gonna find it and they're gonna find it in the black market. That's when the problems are really gonna occur with public health issues."
Giambra, a survivor of throat cancer, said vaping is an endorsed method of quitting tobacco.
"It will force more people back to cigarettes. It's inevitable, and we know very clearly that cigarette smoking is probably the worst thing you can do to your health. It's been confirmed, it's been documented," he said. "It's also been confirmed and documented that the most effective way to quit combustible cigarettes is the electronic cigarettes."
Giambra told WBFO the ban is a "knee-jerk reaction" in response to the "hysteria" over a mystery illness that has been linked to 15 deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations across the country. As the investigation continues, public health officials now believe the incidents are due to tainted, black market THC products, not the e-cigarettes alone.
"There's a company right here in Buffalo that I'm working with, Demand Vape, which has 200 employees, most of them primarily refugees from (Burma), and they're going to be possibly losing their jobs - and all the other people in this industry," Giambra said.
"Not only will the state’s arbitrary and misguided measure do nothing to address the marketing issues about which the state has complained, it is one of the worst examples of government overreach," said Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, a party to the lawsuit.
Abboud said the industry is ready to work with New York State "on thoughtful and effective laws and regulations that restrict youth access and do not unfairly advantage combustible cigarettes." The VTA has issued a list of recommendations for evaping regulation - including a ban on sales to children - that are similar to tobacco.
Their effort has national implications, as other states consider bans and the Trump Administration considers new powers for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's regulation of the industry. The VTA estimates 4,416 direct jobs related to vaping in New York State and a direct economic output of nearly $449 million.