With a rash of vaping-related lung illnesses across the nation, including one death in New York State, Governor Cuomo is looking to ban flavored nicotine products.
"The priority, I believe, is vaping. That's young people. That's young people who are dying," Cuomo said.
But smoking still kills and sickens far more people. There are roughly 28,000 deaths from smoking in New York State each year, and roughly 750,000 people are living with smoking-related illnesses.
Lawmakers are looking to ban menthol cigarettes in New York State, which often are marketed to young people, and African-Americans.
"Over 80% of African-Americans prefer to smoke menthol cigarettes over regular cigarettes compared to whites, which is only 30%,” said Assembly woman Rodneyse Bichotte. “It also shows that, ages 12 to 17, smokers tend to want to smoke menthol cigarettes or any type of flavored product."
Governor Cuomo tried to ban all flavored nicotine products used for vaping, including menthol last month. We asked what he thought about also banning menthol cigarettes.
"I believe the federal government authorizes menthol and tobacco flavored cigarettes. So, you may run into legal issues with the federal government," said Cuomo.
The bill's sponsors disagree.
"No, states can ban menthol cigarettes. Municipalities already have,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “New York City is considering that. I think it's time for New York State to step up and do it once and for all."
There is definitely new momentum in Albany to take on big tobacco, which also has a hand in nicotine vaping products. Cuomo tried to ban vaping flavors through administrative action, but it was blocked by a judge. Insiders say it's likely we will see lawmakers take up legislation to ban vaping when they return to Albany in January, but it remains to be seen if a menthol cigarette ban is part of that effort.