EDITORIAL: Albany County flavor ban goes too far

Law will do more harm than good

Give the Albany County Legislature credit for its passion and concern for the public by trying to get out front of the potential health problems associated with vaping.

Local Law E, which is on tonight’s agenda, would ban flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. 

This law is an irresponsible rush to create a solution to a problem that needs further investigation and for which overreaching legislative action now could unnecessarily and irreparably hurt local businesses and set back the efforts of tobacco users who use vaping and e-cigarettes to quit smoking.

The law only applies to one county, so kids and adults will still be able to get these products from stores in neighboring counties.

That will result in a loss of sales tax revenue for Albany County and a loss of business to stores in the county.

And since this sweeping law has such potential for harm to so many people and businesses, and won’t necessarily solve the problems they’re trying to solve, Albany lawmakers should ignore the hysteria and act responsibility by voting against this legislation.

One of the reasons this type of legislation has been proposed, including at the state and federal levels, is alarm over the number of youths who have taken up vaping and because of the recent health outbreak that has sickened many people around the country and resulted in as many as 39 deaths.

Certainly, those statistics are alarming, and people concerned about their health should consider refraining from using vaping products and flavored tobacco. But it isn’t clear that a full ban on so many products is necessary.

Tuesday’s upcoming vote comes on the heels of new information from federal health officials on the national outbreak of vaping illnesses and deaths.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday that vitamin E acetate — a compound found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices — was a “very strong culprit” in the latest health crisis. This is the first time health officials have found a common suspect, according to an Associated Press article.

If this one chemical is largely responsible for the outbreak, then a ban on all such products is a major overreach.

Tobacco use among youth has long been on the decline,  as kids have drifted to vaping.

But there are more effective ways to discourage vaping than a full-on ban that ropes in adults — including prohibiting advertising directed at kids (cute flavor names), imposing the same restrictions on vape sales as those that apply to tobacco sales, and ramping up efforts to physically prevent kids from being able to purchase vaping products.

Without strong evidence that this law will do what it was intended to do, and given the harm it definitely will cause to businesses and tobacco users who are trying to quit, Albany County lawmakers should vote against it.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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