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Capitol Watch: Doomsday for e-cigs?

By DAVID KLEPPERSeptember 14, 2019

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, lawmakers are taking aim at e-cigarettes amid a worrisome wave of lung illnesses thought to be linked to the popular products.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed banning all flavored e-cigs, while state lawmakers have proposed restrictions on the sale of the liquid cartridges used to refill vaping devices.

Meanwhile, the results are in for the first full month of sports betting in New York.

Here’s a look at stories making news:

SNUFFING OUT E-CIGS: At least three different proposals to restrict electronic cigarettes and vaping devices emerged last week.

One bill, from Sen. Kevin Thomas, D-Long Island, would ban the sale of liquid cartridges, which Thomas says are often sold on the black market and can be refilled with illegal or unknown substances.

Another, from Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, would ban all e-cigarettes until the federal Food and Drug Administration approves their use.

U.S. health officials have identified 380 cases of illness in 36 states and one territory, including six deaths. No single device or ingredient has been tied to all the illnesses. Many of those who were sickened said they’d been vaping THC.

“With hundreds of cases of mysterious respiratory illness and deaths linked to vaping and very little information about the long-term effects of e-cigarettes, the only reasonable approach is to stop the distribution of e-cigarettes until the FDA says e-cigarettes are safe,” Rosenthal said.

Cuomo suggested banning all flavored e-cigs as a way to discourage teens from picking up the nicotine habit. Similar proposals have already been introduced in Albany, along with other proposals to require warning labels on vaping devices and ban coupons for vape devices or liquid.

State health experts are now investigating the wave of illnesses. Cuomo and state health officials have advised New Yorkers not to vape until the products are deemed safe.

BETS ARE IN: Four state-licensed casinos took in more than $820,000 on sports bets in August, the first full month in which wagers were allowed.

Leading the pack is Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, which was the first state-regulated casino to begin taking bets in mid-July. The facility posted $445,000 in gross revenue from wagers in August, up from $294,000 in its first, partial month.

The other three facilities — Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier, Resorts World Catskills and Del Lago in the Finger Lakes — reported $382,000 in combined sports betting revenue.

New York continues to trail its neighbor New Jersey, the state who won the Supreme Court case last year allowing states to legalize and regulate sports betting. The sports book at the Meadowlands Racetrack, New Jersey’s top-grossing sports betting venue, brought in nearly $67 million in revenue from January through the end of July this year.

RURAL CELL SERVICE: Tired of dropped calls in rural areas? New York has a task force for you.

The new Upstate Cellular Coverage Task Force met for the first time last week. It’s charged with finding ways to encourage better, more reliable cell service in rural and remote parts of the state.

“Every New Yorker should be able to access a stable cell connection,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement last week. “Yet our upstate regions have struggled for too long to make the connections that are vital to everyday life and commerce.”

The 16-member panel includes lawmakers, utility regulators, local elected leaders, economic development officials and representatives from the telecommunications industry.

EXCELSIOR UPDATE: More New Yorkers are taking advantage of the Excelsior Scholarship, which aims to make tuition at public colleges and universities free for in-state students.

Some 24,000 students received the scholarship last school year while taking classes at a State University of New York or City University of New York campus. That’s up from 20,000 students in the 2017-2018 school year, when the scholarship was first offered.

The scholarship is open to full-time students with a household income of up to $125,000.

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