New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking to expand the state's newly implemented ban on flavored e-cigarettes to include menthol.
On Thursday, the Democratic governor directed the state's health commissioner to convene an emergency meeting as soon as possible to take steps to include menthol in the first-in-the-nation ban to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. The ban currently excludes tobacco and menthol flavors.
The announcement comes as one local researcher is leading the nation in studying the effects of flavored e-liquids.
Dr. Irfan Rahman with URMC has been researching e-cigarettes in his lab at the School of Medicine for the better part of a decade. The lab has allowed the scientist to take a closer look at vaping and its effects on the body. A few years ago, Dr. Rahman started looking at the makeup of the flavors.
"We know based on our research that the flavors, it doesn't matter what flavors they are or where they come from, those are chemicals," Rahman said.
Rahman, a professor with URMC's Department of Environmental Medicine, said the vaping chemicals are harmful to the lungs.
"They have chest tightness, breathlessness, vomiting, and they're put on a ventilator, so they can get oxygen," he said.
Dr. Rahman said the dozens of tobacco and menthol flavors are no different than the recently-banned vaping flavors.
"Flavors are not fruit juices; they are chemicals," he said. "All these flavors are harmful compared to the air when we just take the oxygen or breathing the air."
The lab's work has played a vital role in uncovering some of the health effects of vaping.
Since June, URMC has treated 16 patients suffering from lung damage related to vaping. That number is up from 12 earlier this month. THC was the common thread.
"Vaping is not safe at all," said Dr. Rahman. "This will lead to hospitalization, even deaths."
The CDC released an update Thursday, reporting at least 805 cases of vaping related lung injuries across 46 states. State Public Health officials said there are a dozen confirmed deaths.
Noah Barclay, 24, switched to using e-cigs a few years ago to help him quit smoking.
"Even before all of this came out, I knew it wasn't good for me," said Barclay, "I used it to quit smoking cigarettes. I don't want to be addicted to nicotine forever, but it's really hard to quit."
Dr. Rahman believes more research needs to be done on the vaping flavors before the number of related illnesses increases even more.
His research is ongoing as new vaping flavors come on the market. Dr. Rahman tests e-liquids purchased at local vape shops and vendors as far away as Europe.