There isn’t a more vocal group of opponents to flavored e-cigarettes — and the threat of addiction posed to area youth — than the Cattaraugus County Board of Health.
Last month the Board of Health recommended the Cattaraugus County Legislature enact a local law prohibiting flavored e-juice.
County Legislature Chairman James J. Snyder, who is also a member of the Board of Health, said a proposed local law is expected to be introduced by county lawmakers soon.
“I’ll support it,” said Snyder, who has been called by one industry lobbyist. “I haven’t returned his calls,” he added.
The Board of Health may be getting some help from the Food and Drug Administration, which on Thursday directed four tobacco companies to stop selling 44 different vape flavors and hookah products.
The companies are: Mighty Vapors LLC, Liquid Labs USA LLC, V8P Juice International LLC and Hookah Imports Inc.
The action comes as the FDA seeks to put the brakes on teen nicotine addiction fueled by the e-cigarettes. David Smith, a Gowanda middle school principal and member of the Board of Health, said he confiscated 60 of the vaping devices from students last year.
In 2016, the FDA received authority to regulate all tobacco products — including e-cigarettes. When the Trump Administration took over in 2017, the regulation of vaping products was delayed for five years. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb moved that up one year to 2011 before he resigned earlier this year.
Public Health Director Dr. Kevin Watkins told members of the Board of Health Wednesday a lobbyist for e-cigarettes had asked to meet with him and sought to make a presentation to the board.
Watkins said health officials are concerned about the levels of nicotine in the juice pods used in e-cigarettes like the Juul, which looks like a computer thumb drive and is most popular with adolescents who vape. Most pods vary in nicotine concentration from 3% to 5%. Juul, he said, comes in 2% and 5% nicotine pods.
“It’s a very addictive chemical substance,” Watkins said of nicotine. Most people do not seem to be using e-cigarettes for the purpose tobacco companies say they market them, as a tobacco cessation devices designed to help wean longtime smokers off nicotine, he said.
Watkins said the county’s local law on tobacco use could also be amended to limit the strength of nicotine in the e-juice.
Dr. Joseph Bohan, Board of Health president, said from his reading, there are not many people for whom vaping is a way to wean themselves off cigarette smoking.
“These are very strong addictors” that has left “a generation of adolescent (nicotine) addicts” in its wake, Bohan said.
One local e-cigarette retailer who spoke to Watkins said most of his business is the flavored e-juice and that no one wants to vape just the tobacco flavor. Watkins said he was told banning flavored e-cigarettes would put the retailers out of business.
“They are always coming up with something else to make money,” said board member Sondra Fox.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)