New York City’s Smoking Ban to Include e-cigarettes

Since 2002, New York City has banned smoking in bars, restaurants, places of employment, government buildings, parks, and other public places. Now, over a decade after that law was enacted, the NYC Council has decided to add e-cigarettes to the ban.


In a 43-8 vote the city approved the measure to ban electronic cigarettes from all public buildings – and a handful of parks. Mayor Bloomberg is expected to sign the legislation. E-cigarettes, which use vapor to deliver nicotine to their users, have been growing in popularity over the past couple of years – not only with adults but also among teens. There are various styles of e-cigs, but the most common sees a user heat up a nicotine-laced liquid (many with fun flavors) and inhale the resulting vapor. The fact that it’s vapor, not smoke, has led advertisers to push the “vape anywhere!” pitch.

Their popularity was outpacing the regulation and legislation – at least until now. The FDA is looking to regulate the devices like tobacco products, and the CDC says “what comes out of e-cigarettes is less toxic [than a real cigarette], but it’s more toxic than breathing clean air.”

The American Lung Association takes a “it might be harmful, but more research is need” stance:

“Also unknown is what the potential harm may be to people exposed to secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes. Two initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (a carcinogen) coming from those secondhand emissions. While there is a great deal more to learn about these products, it is clear that there is much to be concerned about, especially in the absence of FDA oversight,” says the organization.

Here’s what the legislation says:

Electronic cigarette devices have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for smoking cessation and are currently unregulated by the FDA. Most devices contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Although the long-term effects of electronic cigarette devices require further study, the FDA has found that some devices contain toxins and carcinogens and has expressed concerns about their safety. Use of electronic cigarette devices, particularly in places where smoking is prohibited, may interfere with smokers’ attempts to quit by making it easier for them to maintain their nicotine addiction. Children and youth who experiment with electronic cigarettes may become addicted to nicotine and ultimately switch to smoking cigarettes.

The use of electronic cigarette devices may be visually similar to the smoking of cigarettes, and has already been observed in locations where smoking is prohibited, creating concern and confusion that threatens to interfere with enforcement of the Smoke-Free Air Act. The use of electronic cigarette devices in places where smoking is prohibited may increase the social acceptability and appeal of smoking, particularly for youth, potentially undermining the enormous progress that has been made over the years in discouraging smoking.

The Council therefore finds that prohibiting the use of electronic cigarette devices in public places and places of employment will protect the health of the citizens of New York City, facilitate enforcement of the Smoke-Free Air Act, and protect youth from observing behaviors that could encourage them to smoke.

So it appears the council’s objection to e-cigarette use has three major points – 1) we don’t know enough about e-cigarettes and their potential health hazards, 2) it could make smoking look cool and influence kids, and 3) people could be confused by e-cigarettes and think that users are smoking real cigs.

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