The New York City council has voted to add electronic cigarettes to the city’s strict smoking ban, in what could be the latest of many anti-tobacco measures put in place by the outgoing mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
As The Guardian reports, “Only weeks after New York became the first major city to raise the legal age for buying tobacco to 21, the city council voted 43-8 to add electronic cigarettes to the city’s Smoke-Free Air Act.
“Bloomberg’s other initiatives have included bans on trans fats and attempting to limit the sale of large sugary drinks. If the mayor signs the bill as expected, smoking e-cigarettes – or “vaping” – would be prohibited at public and private venues such as beaches, parks, restaurants and office buildings after 120 days.
“The council speaker, Christine Quinn, who sponsored the bill, said at a press conference that the public use of e-cigarettes threatened to undermine enforcement of anti-smoking laws because their appearance was similar to traditional cigarettes and could “renormalise smoking in public places.”
“E-cigarettes are slim, reuseable metal tubes that contain nicotine-laced liquid in a variety of flavours such as bubble gum and bacon. As a “smoker” puffs on the device, the nicotine is heated and releases a vapour that, unlike cigarette smoke, contains no tar, which is known to cause cancer and other diseases.
“Critics of the law contend that such a ban would do more harm than good. Richard Carmona, a former US surgeon general and a current board member at NJOY, one of America’s largest electronic cigarette manufacturers, sent a letter to the council recently to urge rejection of the bill. “I’m extremely concerned that a well-intentioned but scientifically unsupported effort like the current proposal to include electronic cigarettes in New York’s current smoking ban could constitute a giant step backward in the effort to defeat tobacco smoking,” Carmona wrote.
“The debate over risks versus benefits of e-cigarettes is far from settled but a study published recently in the British medical journal, The Lancet, claimed they are as effective as nicotine patches for smokers trying to kick the habit. The European Union has moved to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes, while the US states of Utah, North Dakota and New Jersey have banned their use in any place where smoking is prohibited.