OLEAN — The Cattaraugus County Board of Health lamented a court ruling Tuesday that issued a temporary restraining order on the state’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
Public Health Director Dr. Kevin Watkins informed the Board of Health at its meeting Wednesday at Good Times of Olean that a justice in the Appellate Division, Third Department, had issued the temporary restraining order.
It temporarily delays enforcement of the ban on flavored e-juice announced Sept. 17 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and challenged by the Vapor Technology Association and two e-cigarette retailers.
“The temporary (90-day) emergency ban is no longer in effect,” Watkins told the Board of Health. “It is a short set-back.” The state Health Department “is fighting vigorously to appeal the (latest) decision.”
Watkins, a member of the New York State Health Planning Council, said its members had been ready to meet to add menthol to the list of banned e-cigarette flavors when the ruling was announced. The meeting was adjourned, he said.
“Hopefully, it’s just a temporary setback,” said Board of Health President Dr. Joseph Bohan.
The temporary restraining order from the Appellate Court came after a State Supreme Court judge on Friday refused to issue a temporary restraining order the vaping trade group had sought.
The state’s ban on flavored e-cigarette pods, which was later extended to menthol flavors as well, was in response to a respiratory illness that has hospitalized several hundred people who use e-cigarettes and killed as many as eight people who vaped.
There were indications that some of the deaths may have been related to black market marijuana-based pods for e-cigarettes that used an oil to cut the product.
The Cattaraugus County Board of Health voted earlier this year to recommend the County Legislature consider banning flavored e-cigarettes because they are attractive to teens, who often end up addicted to the nicotine.
A local law banning flavored e-cigarettes and e-juices was introduced in the County Legislature but tabled in the Human Services Committee because of the threat of legal action and the promise of action on the issue by the State Legislature.
The Board of Health had intended to consider endorsing a 2009 Chautauqua County law that not only banned the possession of tobacco products by persons under age 21, but made it a violation. The local law has not been enforced.
County Attorney Thomas Brady asked the Board of Health to hold off on the recommendation to allow him time to research search and seizure statutes. The board agreed to the request.
Board of Health members David Smith of Gowanda, said he’s seized one e-cigarette device a week this year from students in the Gowanda Middle School where he is principal.
Cattaraugus County Legislature Majority Leader Donna Vickman, R-Farmersville, said she thought legislators would be supportive of such a law prohibiting possession of tobacco and vape products by those under age 21.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)