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HEALTH ALERT: Illegal Flavored Vaping Sales on the Rise; Board of Health Enforcement of Fines, Penalties to Retailers

(Ithaca, N.Y., October 27, 2022) – The Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) is alerting the community about increased illegal sales of flavored nicotine vaping products by some local retail businesses. TCHD urges retail businesses to cease illicit sales and is reminding the business community of the sanctions that can be incurred when conducting illicit sales.

NYS Law prohibits the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products, including menthol, in an effort to limit the product’s appeal to youth and young adults. Only tobacco-flavored nicotine vaping products are legal to sell. More information for businesses on the State prohibition can be found on the New York State website .

At the October 25, 2022 meeting of the Tompkins County Board of Health (TC BOH), Board members unanimously approved sanctions against Dream Vape and Smoke, a local retailer that was in violation of the State laws. The enforcement actions include a $2,500 fine from a previously unpaid citation for a similar violation, a $2,750 fine for the sale of a vapor product to a person under the age of 21, a $68,750 fine for the sale of prohibited products (more than 600 individual flavored vapor products containing nicotine were found), prohibitions on further sale of such products, and requirements to post signage at the business.

Flavored vaping products are often promoted to youth, through their packaging, advertisements, and taste. According to the CDC, nearly all adults who use cigarettes began smoking in their teens. Approximately 80% of all youth who have ever used tobacco products started with a flavored product. Studies have shown the majority of youth who use e-cigarettes start with flavored varieties and of those who continue, approximately 85% use the flavored products. Using nicotine in adolescence is associated with increased risk for future addiction to other substances. In the 2021 Tompkins County Community-Level Youth Development Evaluation (CLYDE) Survey, 19% of local high school seniors shared they regularly use vaping products and 30% shared they have used vaping products at some point during their lifetime.

Melissa Dhundale, MD, TC BOH member stated, “Most vaping products contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance also found in other tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigars. CDC studies have shown that up to 99% of e-cigarettes contain nicotine even if not listed on the label. Nicotine is incredibly harmful to youth and young adults, as it directly impacts brain growth and development (which continues until mid-20s). Nicotine changes the way that brain synapses form, and can negatively impact impulse control, mood regulation, attention and learning skills.”

Tompkins County Legislature Chairwoman Shawna Black stated, “As a parent, I am extremely concerned about the increase in sales of flavored vaping products. Research shows how harmful and addictive nicotine use is for young people, and how dangerous vaping products can be. We cannot afford another generation of tobacco addiction and I implore our local businesses to take this issue seriously.”

TCHD conducts routine unannounced inspections of all tobacco and vape retailers in the County as part of the NYS Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act (ATUPA). The Environmental Health (EH) division is tasked with monitoring and enforcement. EH can also conduct an inspection following a complaint about a retailer. If, during an inspection, a business sells prohibited products and/or sells to a person under the age of 21, the retailers can face citations, fines (which can be up to $100 per illegal product), surcharges, and a suspended license.

Tompkins County Board of Health President Christina Moylan stated, “The issue of businesses continuing to sell and promote flavored vaping products, especially to individuals under the age of 21, is of extreme concern to the Tompkins County Board of Health. We thank the Environmental Health division as they prioritize the health of our youth and for their efforts to combat these illegal sales. The Board of Health will continue to support strong measures against retailers who engage in these practices in violation of State law.”

The Tompkins County BOH meets monthly on the 4th Tuesday of the month, at 12pm (except for Nov. & Dec., which are combined and held the first Tuesday in December). Community members may view the meeting live over YouTube streaming or attend in person at the Tompkins County Health Department, 55 Brown Road, Ithaca. Recordings of the meeting can be viewed online. For more information about TCHD’s BOH, visit: https://www.tompkinscountyny.gov/health/boh.

To file a complaint about a retailer, call Environmental Health at 607-274-6688.

For help with quitting vaping, teens and young adults (ages 13-24) can text "DROPTHEVAPE" to 88709 to join “This is Quitting”, a free texting support program. Parents can also text "QUIT" to 202-899-7550 to receive daily advice to help youth quit. Visit www.tfreezone.net/cessation to learn more.

For adults seeking help quitting vaping, contact the New York State Smokers' Quitline 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit www.nysmokefree.com.

The Tompkins County Health Department is your partner for a healthy community. Find us online at TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health, and follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/TompkinsPublicHealth and on Twitter at @TompkinsHealth. Sign up to receive COVID-19 updates or other county announcements via email or text.

Media contact: Shannon Alvord, salvord@tompkins-co.org

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bar graph of the prevalence of vaping among students grade 7 to 12 at Tompkins County schools