NEW YORK—City Council banned indoor use of e-cigarettes during its final meeting of the current session on Dec. 19. The bill adds the smokeless devices to the existing ban on indoor smoking in New York City.
Although studies of the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes have yet to be completed, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the council must act to uphold the integrity of the Smoke Free Air Act.
Quinn said she believes e-cigarettes can “undermine enforcement of the Smoke Free Air Act.” She cited a personal anecdote of someone using an e-cigarette indoors at a cocktail party and it leading to confusion and confrontation. Quinn said allowing people to use e-cigarettes indoors would renormalize smoking in public places. Having to discern if someone is using a combustible cigarette or an e-cigarette could lead people to be less forthright about telling someone he or she can’t smoke inside, she added.
“The Smoke Free Air Act has saved lives, benefitted businesses, and reduced the number of young people who start smoking and end up hooked. We can’t afford to jeopardize these monumental accomplishments,” Quinn said.
At a Dec. 4 hearing opponents argued enforcement is not a problem, as most e-cigarettes do not look similar to conventional cigarettes. Some e-cigarettes, such as NJoy, are intentionally made to resemble combustible cigarettes to make the switch to e-cigarettes easier on smokers. Others, such Blu, are designed to look different from cigarettes and have a blue tip.
New York is not the first city to ban indoor use of e-cigarettes alongside conventional cigarettes. Several states and cities including New Jersey, Utah, North Dakota, Boston, as well as long list of smaller cities and counties have passed laws to restrict e-cigarette use in public places.
Draft regulation of e-cigarettes by the FDA is under review and may be released by the end of the year.
“This is a common sense step many other states and jurisdictions have taken,” said lead sponsor Council member Jim Gennaro.
Oscar DeCastro, who switched to e-cigarettes six months ago, disagrees. Banning e-cigarettes indoors, “would force people who have kicked the habit to smoke outside with smokers, so we are getting all that cancerous, disgusting second-hand smoke,” said DeCastro.
The legislation was introduced on Nov. 27 and fast-tracked to a vote. Key supporters of the legislation, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Speaker Christine Quinn, and Council member Jim Gennaro all leave office Dec 31.
In voting no on the legislation Council member Jumaane Williams said the issue had not received sufficient vetting before coming to a vote. “I think it’s a good bill but I think it’s being rushed, so I vote no.”
City Council passed the bill 43 to 8.
Additional reporting by Epoch Times Staff members Samira Bouaou and Sarah Matheson.