OLEAN — New York Association of Convenience Store president Jim Calvin said the proposed ban on e-cigarette flavorings in Cattaraugus County isn’t a real solution to the problem officials are attempting to address.
County lawmakers will take up debate today of the proposed ban on flavored e-juice, which health officials blame for a skyrocketing addiction to nicotine by teens hooked on vaping.
The Cattaraugus County Board of Health last month joined a growing chorus of those seeking to ban flavored vaping pods which are popular among adolescents — particularly those who haven’t smoked cigarettes.
The Cattaraugus County Legislature’s Human Services Committee will discuss the proposed ban today in Little Valley.
Calvin said in an interview at the Olean Times Herald on Monday he hadn’t planned to attend the committee meeting where the ban on flavored e-juice will be discussed. That could change, he said, adding that someone else may represent local retailers of vaping materials at the meeting.
If the law is passed out of committees and a public hearing is set to discuss the proposed flavor ban, Calvin said he would be back to testify. His office is in Albany.
“It’s a hollow solution to a serious problem,” Calvin said. “It’s going to make the problem worse.”
Convenience stores sometimes get a bad rap for being a source of e-cigarettes and e-juice to teens, Calvin said. He contends kids are getting vaping products online or from older relatives and friends, not from licensed retail stores.
“Our job is to make sure none of the vaping products are sold to youths. We ID and verify the age of the purchaser,” he said.
Adults, Calvin said, prefer flavored e-juice. If it’s not available at the local convenience store or vape shop, they’ll go either to a surrounding county that does not ban flavored e-juice, buy it online or visit tribal retailers.
In other words, local convenience store and others who sell the flavored e-juice will see a drop in customers, who often buy other things as well.
“It punishes state-licensed convenience stores, but it doesn’t solve the problem,” Calvin said.
He said sponsors of the local law in Cattaraugus County are unfairly blaming stores for teen vape use, and looking to pass a law “just so they can say they did something.”
“We’re concerned about the teen vaping problem too,” he said of local retailers. “There’s no question there is a serious teen vaping problem.”
Calvin said, “You don’t want to drive the sale of that problem to where it can’t be regulated or taxed.”
What would Calvin advise?
“Teach kids not to vape,” he said. “Teach them about the dangers.” Parents and schools have a role in this, he added. Kids who smoke or vape should be directed to smoking cessation programs.
The incidence of minors getting vaping products from convenience stores is low, Calvin insisted. Cattaraugus County’s tobacco compliance checks find few violations
“Hopefully, Cattaraugus County would make it illegal for minors to possess tobacco products,” Calvin said.