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September 17, 2019

Howard A. Zucker, M.D., J.D.

Commissioner, New York State Department of Health
Corning Tower
Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12237

Dear Commissioner Zucker:

The recent vaping related lung illnesses that have claimed at least seven lives and impacted
several hundred more is a crisis that warrants immediate action in New York State. We applaud
Governor Cuomo for taking life-saving action to address this public health problem and agree
that the administration’s proposals are reasonable measures while the state and our institutions
work to better understand the short and long term effects of vaping. We request any regulations
prohibiting the possession of flavored electronic cigarettes and flavored e-liquids include an
exemption for accredited academic research centers to continue their important research into
these products and their health effects on users.

Our institutions are home to the world’s most experienced scientists and public health experts in
tobacco research and electronic cigarette use, including their health impacts and interventions. In
2018, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and University of Rochester Medical Center
(URMC) were awarded a prestigious $19 Million federal grant from the National Cancer
Institute to study the use and health consequences of flavored tobacco products which include
electronic cigarettes and flavorings. This unique grant is one of only nine projects to earn
funding through the federal Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) program which
was created five years ago by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National
Institutes of Health (NIH) in order to generate evidence to inform the FDA’s regulatory

This is the first ever federally funded research to look at flavored tobacco in such a
comprehensive and systematic way and has led to the formation of the Western NY Center for
research on Flavored Tobacco Products (CRoFT). Through this partnership, Roswell Park is
analyzing various combustible and electronic tobacco products, their consequences for health
and how users interact with these products. URMC is contributing critical resources in biomarker
screening, genetic analysis and toxicology assessment of flavored tobacco users. Specifically,
our teams of researchers are studying flavoring toxicity, flavor impacts on behavior, respiratory
health effects of flavors and the effects of product marketing.
The data from this research is more important than ever with the growing number of flavorings,
delivery systems and product options appearing on the market and the outcomes of these studies
will have significant implications for public health nationally. Access to electronic cigarette
flavorings is critically necessary for this research. The proposed regulations by the
administration have the unintended consequence of cutting off necessary materials to sustain this
important work and the grant.

We request that there be an exemption to the proposed provision banning “possession” of

“flavored e-liquids or a product containing the same” for accredited academic research centers to
continue conducting grant funded research. This exemption would enable our centers to acquire
the flavored products from other states for the important research being conducted here in New


Candace S. Johnson, Ph.D. Mark B. Taubman, M.D.

President & CEO CEO, URMC and UR Medicine
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Dean, School of Medicine and Dentistry