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Heated debate in Albany over proposed ban on flavored cigarettes in New York

New York’s latest budget proposal has ignited a heated debate among anti-tobacco advocates and tobacco organizations over the proposed ban on flavored cigarettes and increased taxes on cigarette purchases. Governor Kathy Hochul’s $227 billion budget plan has been met with both support and opposition, with the former hailing the move as a critical step in reducing tobacco use among young people.

The latest Department of Health survey found that tobacco use rates among teens in New York dropped from 30.6% in 2018 to 25.6% in 2020, a trend that anti-smoking advocates believe will continue with the proposed ban and tax increase.

However, tobacco groups and convenience store organizations argue that the ban and increased tax will only fuel the illicit sale of cigarettes, including menthol. They claim that the proposal would lead to a reduction in business and increased enforcement costs.

State health officials have thrown their weight behind the proposed law and tax changes, with Acting Health Commissioner James McDonald stating that the ban on menthol and flavored tobacco products would prevent young people and people of color from taking up smoking.

While a similar measure proposed by former Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2019 failed to gain traction in the state Legislature, the latest proposal has received support from the Health Commissioner and anti-tobacco advocates who believe it will save lives. The final decision on the proposed ban and tax increase rests with the state Legislature, with the outcome expected to have far-reaching effects on the future of tobacco use in New York.