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Health insurer clarifies e-cigarette restrictions as concerns rise statewide

Excellus Health Plan this week clarified that e-cigarette smoking is banned in its workplaces across the state, including its Univera Healthcare headquarters in Williamsville.

“Most laws and workplace policies are historically oriented to tobacco-based products, so we thought it was worth the effort to draw attention to the safety concerns of e-cigarettes while also strengthening those policies we can control,” said Chris Booth, CEO of the Rochester-based nonprofit health insurer.

Excellus serves 1.5 million members across upstate New York. It has 3,500 employees, including 480 at Univera.

The move came as the health plan and others look to underline the dangers of vaping, particularly among young people.

Researchers and public health officials generally view vaping as less dangerous than cigarette smoking, but a Roswell Park Comprehensive Center-Stony Brook Children's Hospital study last year showed that e-cigarettes tend to approach similar addictive nicotine levels. A spate of vaping-related hospitalizations across the country, most of them for respiratory problems, also has spurred greater concern.

New York State will raise the minimum age to buy e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 in coming months, state public health law prohibits e-cigarette use in public areas where tobacco use is prohibited, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes as he also weighs other restrictions.

AS FDA mulls ban, Roswell Park e-cigarette study shows danger for kids

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