New York governor proposes ban on flavored e-cigarettes

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019   •   849

A man smokes an electronic cigarette vaporizer, also known as an e-cigarette, in Toronto, August 7, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed legislation on Monday (September 9) to ban flavored e-cigarettes statewide in an effort to protect young people from the unknown consequences of vaping.

“Common sense says if you don’t know what you’re smoking, don’t smoke it,” Cuomo told reporters at a news conference. “And right now, we don’t know what you’re smoking in a lot of these vaping substances,” he said.

The governor’s announcement comes after a nationwide surge in mysterious, serious lung illnesses possibly related to vaping, which has also been linked to five deaths in the United States.

The decision is of a piece with how vaping is currently being viewed by many on the street in New York.

“You don’t know what the hell you’re smoking,” Brian, a construction worker, told Reuters. “You don’t know what they’re putting in that oil.”

U.S. public health officials on Friday announced that they are investigating about 450 cases of the illness across 33 states and one U.S. territory, including 41 cases in the state of New York. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said they have not linked the illnesses to any specific e-cigarette product or ingredient.

If the proposed legislation were to become law, New York would become the second state to ban flavored e-cigarettes, following Michigan, which passed a ban on Wednesday.

While e-cigarettes are promoted as a product to help smokers cut down or quit, health officials have expressed concerns that many e-cigarette flavors are designed to get a new generation hooked on nicotine.

Many of the reported illnesses involved vaping products, including cannabis products, containing vitamin E acetate, an oil derived from vitamin E that is potentially dangerous if inhaled,

Cuomo, sitting beside New York Commissioner of Health, Dr. Howard Zucker, also announced that the state’s Department of Health was issuing subpoenas to three e-cigarette companies, Honey Cut Labs LLC, Floraplex Terpenes and Mass Terpenes LLC. The Department of Health obtained samples from the three companies and found high levels of vitamin E acetate in their products.

Cuomo said stores that sell e-cigarettes will be required to disclose potential health consequences.

“It’s quite simple: Don’t do it,” Cuomo said. “Don’t do it because we don’t know if it’s safe.” (Reuters)

(Production by: Dan Fastenberg and Hussein al Waaile)

Trump urges U.S. to halt most social activity in virus fight, warns of recession

UNTV News   •   March 17, 2020

President Donald Trump urged Americans on Monday (March 16) to halt most social activities for 15 days and not congregate in groups larger than 10 people in a newly aggressive effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

Announcing new guidelines from his coronavirus task force, the president said people should avoid discretionary travel and not go to bars, restaurants, food courts or gyms.

As stocks tumbled, Trump warned that a recession was possible, a development that could affect his chances of re-election in November. The Republican president said he was focused on addressing the health crisis and that the economy would get better once that was in line.

The task force implored young people to follow the new guidelines even though they were at lesser risk of suffering if they contract the virus. Older people, especially those with underlying health problems, are at the greatest risk if they develop the respiratory disease.

Reporters staggered their seating, sitting in every other seat in the White House briefing room, to follow social distancing measures.

Trump said the worst of the virus could be over by July, August or later. He called it an invisible enemy.

The president has taken criticism for playing down the seriousness of the virus in the early days of its U.S. spread. On Monday, when asked, he gave himself a good grade for his response.

“I’d rate it a 10. I think we’ve done a great job,” he said.

Trump said a nationwide curfew was not under consideration at this point.

Normally a cheerleader for the U.S. economy, he acknowledged the possibility of a recession while brushing off another dramatic decline on stock markets as investors worried about the virus.

“We’re not thinking in terms of recession, we’re thinking in terms of the virus. Once we stop, I think there’s a tremendous pent up demand, both in terms of the stock market and in terms of the economy,” Trump said. The president has long considered soaring stock markets to be a sign of his administration’s success.

Trump said the administration had talked regularly about domestic travel restrictions but hoped not to have to put such measures in place.

He said he thought it would still be possible for G7 leaders to meet at the Camp David retreat in Maryland in June. Trump upset European countries, which make up a large part of the G7, by instituting travel restrictions from European countries without consulting with them first. (Reuters)

(Production: Katharine Jackson)

The show won’t go on: Broadway closed on coronavirus fears

Robie de Guzman   •   March 13, 2020

Broadway theaters, among New York’s biggest tourist attractions, were shut down for a month on Thursday (March 12) in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus in the city.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on all gatherings of more than 500 people, including theatres, starting on Thursday evening. Most Broadway theatres have around 1,000 seats.

The Broadway League said in a statement that shows would be suspended until April 13. They include crowd-pleasers like “Hamilton,” “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The decision was part of a range of extraordinary measures in the nation’s biggest city. Some 328 people in New York are confirmed to have the disease, Cuomo said.

The spreading virus has already led to cancellation or postponement of dozens of U.S. entertainment industry events, including the Coachella and South by Southwest festivals, CinemaCon, the E3 videogames convention and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Broadway was spooked on Wednesday (March 11) when an usher who had worked at two New York theatres tested positive for coronavirus. Owners of the two venues said they had ordered deep cleanings and their shows went ahead on Wednesday.

Television talk shows “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” said they would tape their broadcasts in New York venues without audiences going forward.

Several Broadway plays and musicals had previously put a halt to cast members greeting fans and signing programs at stage doors.

Some 14.8 million tickets were sold for Broadway shows in the 2018-2019 season that ended in May, bringing $1.8 billion in box office receipts, according to the Broadway League. Some 63% of those going to shows were tourists, from outside the United States or outside New York.

“Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatergoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals,” Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said in a statement on Friday. (Reuters)

(Production by: Catherine Koppel and Hussein al Waaile)

Streets deserted in Milan during coronavirus lockdown

UNTV News   •   March 11, 2020

A handful of people were seen on the streets of Milan on Wednesday morning (March 12) following stringent measures imposed to contain the coronavirus.

Shops and restaurants closed, hundreds of flights were cancelled and streets emptied across Italy on Tuesday (March 10), the first day of an unprecedented, nationwide lockdown imposed to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus.

Just hours after the dramatic new restrictions came into force, health authorities announced the death toll had jumped by 168 to 631, the largest rise in absolute numbers since the contagion came to light on Feb. 21.

The total number of confirmed cases rose at a much slower rate than recently seen, hitting 10,149 against a previous 9,172, but officials warned that the region at the epicentre, Lombardy, had provided incomplete data.

The government has told all Italians to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel until April 3, radically widening steps already taken in much of the wealthy north, which is the epicentre of the spreading contagion. (Reuters)

(Production: Marissa Davison)

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