BUFFALO, N.Y. — This week, the New York State Association of Convenience Stores sent cease and desist letters demanding rapper Snoop Dogg, former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and former boxing heavyweight champion Mike Tyson pull their names from flavored nicotine vapes.
"We're trying to elevate this issue for policymakers to understand that a way forward is to stop making these products look so glamorous and start cracking down on the retailers and the manufacturers and distributors and now the celebrity endorsers," NYACS President Kent Sopris said.
The products are illegal under state law and banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sopris said the companies market toward minors and the celebrities in their endorsement are complicit.
"They need to understand that when they name to products like this, kids are going to use them and we want to go in the opposite way," he said.
NYSAC said the letters won't be the end of the association's efforts, but he hopes will send the message it's serious. Sopris said while some local and county government have supported public education and enforcement, the state has not made curbing illegal retail a priority.
"Bad actors aren't taking us seriously because New York state, quite frankly, has not been taking us very seriously on enforcement," he said.
Sopris said none of the members he represents are selling the products, but are competing with stores that aren't giving the same consideration to the law or public health.
"They are flouting the law,” he said. “They are selling these products to kids and quite frankly I'm tired of my members being blamed for this. My members don't sell this stuff.”
Sopris said industry associations, health advocates and the state all have the same interests in mind and should be working together.