Villain Vape Lounge in Port Chester feels business dropping with recent bans from Albany Rockland/Westchester Journal News
A judge has ordered New York state to reimburse a vaping trade group’s attorney fees connected to a lawsuit over the state’s attempt last year to impose an emergency ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Catherine Cholakis on Wednesday sided with the vaping group that argued state officials overreached their authority and thus should cover the legal costs associated with fighting the ban.
Vape shops and the Vapor Technology Association trade group filed the lawsuit and are seeking about $381,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs from the state. Cholakis noted an evidentiary hearing will be set to determine if the amount is accurate, court records show.
In the order, Cholakis noted the state Attorney General’s Office lawyers representing New York made a compelling case that the emergency ban “was in response to the serious problems of underage vaping and pulmonary illnesses traced to vaping.”
But in explaining why the state must cover the group’s attorneys fees, she added: “There can be no denying the seriousness of the health issues surrounding vaping. Concern for those issues, however, cannot excuse clearly unconstitutional action.”
Cholakis, however, questioned the amount of money sought by the vaping groups.
New York state’s lawyers “bristle, though, at the amount of costs and fees sought by (the vaping group),” she wrote.
“Indeed, the total amount sought appears, at least on its face, to be an eye-popping sum, even when judged by New York counsel fee standards,” she added.
The state Attorney General’s Office on Thursday declined to comment on the order.
While the state’s emergency ban on flavored e-cigarettes stalled in court, the flavored vaping products were ultimately banned in New York this year when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature included a version of the measure in the state budget.
The lawsuit stemmed from an outbreak of vaping-related illnesses last year in New York and across the country. Cuomo and several other governors quickly moved to ban flavored e-cigarettes, citing the serious lung injuries and striking increases in teenagers vaping.
State health officials cited the growing ranks of young New Yorkers getting addicted to vaping flavors that mimic candy, desserts and fruits as the reason for the emergency ban and urgent efforts to pass similar legislation.
“Nearly 40% of 12th grade students and 27% of high school students are now using e-cigarettes and this increase is largely driven by flavored e-liquids,” Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said on Sept. 17, citing major spikes in youth e-cigarette use since 2014.
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