Oct. 7, 2014 By Michael Florio
Astoria’s councilman is introducing a bill that would ban flavored e-cigarettes.
The bill would prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, similar to a 2009 city law that stopped the sale of flavored ‘tobacco’ products.
The council has been getting tough on the e-cigarette industry in recent times—treating them like regular cigarettes. It passed a bill in 2013 that prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to those below the age of 21 and bans their use in public places, parks and beaches.
“We will treat them the same way we treat regular cigarettes,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides who is introducing the bill. “They call themselves e-cigarettes. They’ve chosen to associate with the cigarette industry.”
Constantinides said contrary to popular belief, e-cigarettes are not a healthy replacement of cigarettes.
“They [E-cigarette providers] are not in the business of getting people to quit smoking,” he said. “They are in the business of addiction, just to their product and not regular cigarettes.”
Constantinides also said the ban was necessary to make sure they do not appeal to children.
The bill is in its infancy and Constantinides anticipates that it will be presented to the city council’s health committee shortly. He said that he is unsure how long it would take for the bill to pass—since it would be subject to a hearing.
However, Spiro Dongaris, owner of City Vape, a vape shop located at 31-88 37th Street, said that this bill could potentially put an end to his business. He said that he sells more than 200 flavors of e-cigarettes.
Dongaris said that most of his business is driven by the sale of his flavored products.
He said that the bill is unfairly targeting his industry, arguing that alcohol companies sell flavored products too.
Constantinides said that any time a law is changed it can have a negative impact on people’s businesses. However, this is a public health issue—one that must taken seriously. He said that this bill focuses on e-cigarettes and that other flavored products can be discussed later.
Dongaris said it would likely shut down vape shops throughout New York City. He said e-cigarettes would then be sold online and it could lead to a black market.
“People want their flavors and they will get them,” he said.
One customer in City Vape, whose favorite flavor is cappuccino, said she would not let this bill prevent her from getting flavors for her e-cigarette.
“I will not go back to plain e-cigarettes or [regular] cigarettes,” she said.
Dongaris said he would fight this bill by lobbying, starting petitions and spreading the word around the community.
“This community has an appreciation for this product because it is saving lives,” he said.
However, Constandinides said that there are no studies indicating that e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative.