State regulators notified health plans Thursday that they must cover the costs associated with vaping cessation

ALBANY — New York is now requiring health insurers to cover quitting vaping in the same manner as trying to stop smoking cigarettes.


State regulators notified health plans Thursday that they must cover the costs associated with vaping cessation, citing the fact electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes contain addictive nicotine.


Insurers should provide coverage for vaping cessation treatment using methods recommended for adult smoking cessation, including screening, behavioral interventions and federally-approved pharmacotherapy, such as nicotine gum and patches, according to a letter sent to insurers by the state Department of Financial Services.


The coverage also includes behavioral interventions for school-aged children and adolescents, as appropriate.


Insurers must cover these vaping cessation costs without co-pays, coinsurance and deductibles.


"E-cigarette use has exploded in recent years and many of the people who want to quit are now having trouble because vaping is more addicting than they previously thought," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Thursday about the insurance coverage.


"New Yorkers trying to stop vaping need access to treatment, and this action will require insurance companies to provide the same coverage they would for smoking cessation to anyone seeking to stop using e-cigarettes."


Cuomo and state regulators cited the rising number of teenagers using e-cigarettes and the outbreak of vaping-related illnesses this summer as reasons for pursuing the health insurance coverage mandate.


"Insurers must adapt to address emerging issues in public health and that includes vaping, which is growing in use including among teenagers causing illnesses and even deaths," Financial Services Superintendent Linda Lacewell said in a statement.


The mandate comes as New York state’s emergency ban on flavored e-cigarettes has been stalled in court so long it is set to expire before it ever gets enforced.


The 90-day ban approved on Sept 17 was swiftly halted as part of an ongoing lawsuit filed by vaping industry leaders.


A key state Health Department panel is poised to vote Thursday to renew the ban in hopes that is upheld in state Supreme Court in Albany County.


Many vaping advocates suggest the ban could drive thousands of adults now using vape products back to smoking cigarettes and fuel demand for dangerous black-market vaping wares.


Further, some vape shop owners asserted e-cigarettes with nicotine step-down options, which reduce the amount of the addictive substance over time, are being used by adults to wean themselves off smoking and vaping altogether.


Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to investigate more than 2,000 cases of vaping-related illnesses, including 48 deaths. As of Friday, New York had 201 cases and two deaths.


The CDC has linked the lung injuries to vitamin E acetate, used as a thickening agent or to dilute THC oil in vape cartridges to make it go further. Tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, is the ingredient in cannabis that creates the "high."


Many of the people with vaping illness also used nicotine-based electronic cigarettes. And the big uptick in middle and high school vaping has added pressure for state and federal regulations of e-cigarettes.