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Lawmakers Propose Ban On Menthol Cigarettes

A pair of New York City legislators want to ban menthol cigarettes statewide.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, has introduced legislation in the Senate to prohibit the sale and distribution of flavored tobacco products and accessories. The legislation, S.6809, was introduced Friday.

The legislation would add a new section to Section 1399-cc-1 of the state Public Health Law to prohibit the sale offer for sale or distribution in New York state of any tobacco product with a “characterizing flavor” or any accessory that imparts a “characterizing flavor” to a tobacco product. In addition to the $100 fine to manufacturers for each individual product or accessory sold, Hoylman’s proposal would also make a tobacco product maker in violation of the law subject to a civil penalty no more than $50,000 for each brand or style of its tobacco products or accessories found to have been sold, offered for sale or distributed in violation of the law more than once during any 30-day period.

Hoylman’s legislation seeks to close a loophole in federal law that prohibits the sale of most flavored tobacco cigarettes except for menthol cigarettes. The federal law also does not restrict flavored tobacco products other than cigarettes.

“This inaction has permitted tobacco products to remain appealing to young people and adults alike, despite their devastating health impacts,” Hoylman wrote in his legislative justification for S.6809. “According to the Public Health Law Center, reports commissioned by the FDA have concluded that ‘removing menthol from all commercial tobacco products would benefit the public’s health and save thousands of lives, 33 to 50% of which would be African American.’ The center also notes that “at least half of all teen smokers use menthol tobacco products,” and “menthol cigarettes are used at disproportionately higher rates by racial and ethnic minority smokers.”

Hoylman anticipates that any additional costs the state would pay for enforcement would be offset by future savings to state health care programs.

“New York state government must do everything in its power to diminish the appeal of tobacco products and encourage smoking cessation,” Hoylman said. “This bill would make New York a national leader in discouraging tobacco usage by prohibiting the sale, offer for sale, or distribution of all flavored tobacco products and accessories, including menthol flavors.”

Hoylman’s proposed action on menthol cigarettes comes at the same time the state’s ban, via an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes was temporarily stopped by a judge. Menthol e-cigarettes were not included in Cuomo’s ban because of their potential value as a way to help people stop smoking cigarettes.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, has also proposed five pieces of legislation dealing with e-cigarettes, all of which have been referred to the Assembly’s Health Committee.

A.8630 would standardize e-cigarette design and require health warnings on the product. The law would require businesses selling tobacco products to have the products stored behind a counter in an area where only store personnel can get them or in a locked container. A.8629 would require the state Health Department to establish nicotine levels for electronic cigarettes and e-liquids which automatically taper in nicotine strength in amounts and at certain time intervals.

A.8628 would require a valid prescription from a licensed physician in order to purchase, obtain or use an electronic cigarette. The state Health Department would be empowered to develop further rules and regulations.

A.8627 prohibits the use of toxic metals in electronic cigarettes, requires disclosure of materials used in e-cigarette hardware and requires the state Health Department to study the long-term health effects of electronic cigarette users. Rosenthal’s final piece of legislation would implement a moratorium on sale of e-cigarettes until the federal Food and Drug Administration conducts a premarket approval on the products to determine if they are safe and effective for use as a way to help cigarette smokers quit. The legislation imposes a penalty of at least $10,000 for violations.

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