The Albany County Legislature lost an opportunity to be a leader and prevent the current generation of youth from falling prey to the epidemic of e-cigarette use when it defeated Local Law E tonight. The measure failed with 18 “ayes,” 17 “nos” and an abstention. It needed 20 votes to pass. Local Law E would have restricted the sale of flavored tobacco products in the county.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Albany County Legislature chose to listen and follow Big Tobacco instead of the public health community, teachers, and youth themselves,” said Caitlin O’Brien, the American Heart Association’s government relations director for New York State. “With the defeat of this bill, our legislators have subjected our kids to continued nicotine addiction and myriad chronic health issues that follow.”
The American Heart Association has been among the public health groups and advocates who have rallied before county Legislature meetings, spoken during the public forums of the Legislature, and reached out directly to legislators, since April.
In the past four years, there has been an increase of 160 percent in high schoolers’ use of e-cigarettes, with 27 percent of high school students vaping. E-cigarettes are full of nicotine and chemicals that are risk factors for heart disease. Many youth move from e-cigarettes to combustible tobacco like menthol cigarettes.
Local Law E had also included restrictions on the sale of mint and menthol products, since those have long been targeted at African American communities.
Tobacco-related health illnesses cost the state of New York $10.4 billion annually. The American Heart Association hopes that New York State will act as soon as possible to protect public health by prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products.