Pros and cons of banning flavored tobacco products

Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 4:24 PM EDT
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CANTON, New York (WWNY) - A bill in Albany looks to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes and some vaping products. We spoke with experts who say this possible ban offers both pros and cons.

The New York State Legislature is considering banning the sale of flavored tobacco products. This includes menthol cigarettes, vaping products - both chargeable and disposable - as well as any flavored chewing tobacco.

According to Travis Jordan who leads Reality Check, a branch of the Seaway Valley Prevention Council, the move could help keep school kids from buying the products which he feels are targeted at a younger generation.

“I would say from doing presentations, the youngest that I’ve really kind of encountered has been third or fourth grade which is pretty scary. I’m sure it’s probably even younger than that with kids maybe not knowing what the product is and having them grab their parent’s vape or whatever it is and trying it because it is easily accessible,” he said.

Some health officials say a kid who picks up vaping is likely to start smoking cigarettes, and smoking is a large health concern already in St. Lawrence County.

“So the county health rankings just came out for 2023 and St. Lawrence County is up to 21% compared to 12% for New York state in general. The nation, the United States as a whole, is about 16% so we are higher and we are one of the highest counties in New York state at the moment for the smoking rate,” said Jolene Munger, director, St. Lawrence County Public Health.

If the bill does pass, according to Kent Sopris, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, the problems won’t go away; people will still smoke menthols and kids will still get their hands on flavored tobacco.

“The problem with that is that, what it would do is just take these products out of taxed retail stores like my members and put them into the illicit market. So when people say I want to ban menthol because it will help people quit smoking, it’s not really going to happen. What that will do is make the smoker purchase the item somewhere else,” he said.

Sopris believes New York state should fund more enforcement programs, and go after illegal sales within the black market.

“There’s a huge need for inspectors to get out there in these illegal stores and they’re just not there,” he said.

The bill banning the sale of flavored tobacco is still being reviewed within the state Senate Health Committee.