State Sen. Funke backs off flavored e-cigarette ban, a bill he co-sponsored

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FILE – In this Sept. 16, 2019 file photo flavored vaping solutions are shown in a window display at a vape and smoke shop, in New York. Michigan has joined New York in banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes as federal health officials investigate the cause of hundreds of serious breathing illnesses in people who have used vaping devices. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released details of the ban Wednesday, Sept. 18 and gave retailers, including online sellers, two weeks to comply. The ban includes menthol and mint flavored products. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews File)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC/WETM-TV) — New York State Senator Rich Funke (R-55th Senate District) is backing off a bill regarding the ban of flavored e-cigarettes, a bill he cosponsored in the state senate.

“I remain very concerned about the use of e-cigarettes and their impacts on public health and especially their use among young people. After much consideration I decided to take my name off of a bill banning flavored e-liquids because recent evidence has shown that they were not to blame for vaping related deaths,” Sen. Funke said in a statement.

Senator Pam Helming (R-54th Senate District) also weighed in Wednesday saying, “the so-called flavor ban is another government overreach that will deny consumers a choice and harm local small businesses.”

After an outbreak of vaping-related illnesses last year, the New York State legislature began working on a ban of flavored vape products, which was supposed to begin in October but was blocked by the courts.

The court ruled that a flavor ban could not go into effect until a court ruled on a preliminary injunction.

Since then, a lot of new information has come to light, including a study revealing that nearly all of the vaping-related illnesses on record in New York state were the result of black market THC cartridges, not nicotine.

THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, meaning those products are already illegal in New York.

Ken Gregory, who owns a number of vape shops across the region, spent last week in Albany attending dozens of meetings with lawmakers, including Funke’s team. He says it was a series of conversations on vaping and re-thinking the proposed vaping ban. 

“Pumping the brakes on a flavor ban is 100% valid at this point. If people are willing to have an open conversation, the facts and the science are on our side,” he says.

Advocates for the ban on flavored e-cigarettes — including Gov. Andrew Cuomo — have argued flavored vape products attract underage users and encourage them to get addicted to nicotine.

In late November, New York Attorney General announced a state lawsuit against JUUL Labs Inc. a vaping manufacturer. The lawsuit alleges that JUUL’s advertising campaign misled consumers by failing to warn that they contained nicotine, and by misrepresenting its products as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, according to James.

Funke, who has served for the 55th District since he was elected in 2014, announced in December that he would not be running for re-election this year.

Funke’s full statement:

“I remain very concerned about the use of e-cigarettes and their impacts on public health and especially their use among young people. After much consideration, I decided to take my name off of a bill banning flavored e-liquids because recent evidence has shown that they were not to blame for vaping related deaths.”

Instead, the Center for Disease Control placed the blame on liquids containing Vitamin E acetate sold on the black market to dilute liquids containing THC. I voted to raise the age for smoking to 21, and I believe e-liquids should be taxed and regulated similar to tobacco. However, considering this new evidence I believe that adults should be able to choose whether to use or not use flavored e-liquids. I believe in personal choice on this issue even when the choice is not one I would make or want my kids or grandkids to make.

At a time when the Governor is advocating legalize marijuana how can we ban adult access to flavored e-liquids? We need to continue to work to keep vape products out of the hands of our children and to research the long term health impacts of these products. Until a definitive conclusion is reached they should remain available.” 

-SENATOR RICH FUNKE


Senator Pam Helming’s full statement:

“No form of smoking, vaping or tobacco use is risk-free. These products should not be sold or marketed to minors and those who violate these laws must be held accountable. However, the so-called flavor ban is another government overreach that will deny consumers a choice and harm local small businesses. Adults should be able to make individual decisions about vape/tobacco use and the proposed flavor bans at the state level are a knee jerk overreaction. Those who vape and support individual choice are making their voices heard. Although the Governor has renewed his call for a flavor ban in his State of the State, there is no guarantee that legislators, after hearing from their constituents will take action on this issue. Changes of this magnitude are too large to be made through executive order or by unelected committees. It is important that we have public hearings and real debate and discussion about this issue before any action is taken.”

-SENATOR PAM HELMING

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