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AUBURN — The owners of two vape shops with locations in Auburn say Gov. Andrew Cuomo's ban on flavored e-liquid threatens their business. 

“I think it has the potential to hurt a lot of people was my initial reaction," said Michael Deming, owner of Hardtail Vapors, on Monday afternoon. "That’s a lot of people that will lose their jobs immediately and it’s probably hundreds of thousands of people that won’t have what they’ve been using to keep them off of cigarettes.”

It was one day after Cuomo's announcement that he will use an executive action to ban most of the flavored liquid used in e-cigarettes in New York state. Bubble gum, cotton candy, cherry cola and mint chocolate flavors would be targeted on the grounds that they appear to appeal to children. 

Richard DeChick, owner of the Central New York vape shop chain Vape Kult, called that argument "asinine."

"Everybody that’s in this industry or the majority of people that are in this industry, this is what got them off cigarettes," he said. "Why would they want somebody to start using nicotine? Nicotine was half the problem with the cigarettes."

Both Deming and DeChick said they expect people with cigarette addictions will go back to smoking when the flavor ban goes into effect possibly in early October. While Cuomo explained during the Sunday press conference that menthol- and tobacco-flavored e-liquid will be available for people trying to quit cigarettes, Deming said those options aren't very helpful.

"They don’t want something that tastes like the cigarette they’ve been smoking for however many years. They want something that tastes different. They’re trying to get away from smoking, not stay as close as possible to it," he said.

State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker has called vaping a "public health crisis." Six deaths have occurred nationwide from vaping-related illnesses and 64 cases of illness after vaping were reported in the state.

However, USA Today has reported that most of the patients in those cases reported vaping liquid with the marijuana chemical THC and vitamin E that is not healthy to inhale. But it's not legal to sell THC e-liquid in New York. 

“Anything can be vaped, you know what I mean? You could put gasoline in the thing, you’re going to die. You can vape anything in liquid form," DeChick said. He estimated that 98% of the liquid that vape shops sell are flavored with something other than tobacco or menthol, which means those stores are likely to close.

DeChick said he thinks Cuomo should resign over the executive order. "That’s my opinion. If you can’t lead, then we gotta get somebody in there that can lead. That’s not being a leader," he said.

Meanwhile, Deming is figuring out what to do with the Auburn and Weedsport buildings his business uses and all the extra product he'll have.

“We’re literally trying to put a plan together because it could be two or three weeks and we all ... my employees have to find new jobs. I have to find a job," he said.

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Staff writer Mary Catalfamo can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or mary.catalfamo@lee.net. Find her on Twitter @mrycatalfamo.

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