The New York City Council approved adding electronic cigarettes to a ban on smoking in offices, restaurants, bars and parks, a move that may be followed by other U.S. cities.
The measure, backed by Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, passed 43 to 8 yesterday.
E-cigarettes, battery-operated tubes that simulate the effect of smoking by producing nicotine vapor, may be a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes and make quitting harder, Quinn said. The law would take effect in four months, said Jamie McShane, a spokesman for the speaker.
Proponents say e-cigarettes don’t produce the toxic and carcinogenic byproducts found in second-hand smoke. Users, who call the practice “vaping,” turn to e-cigarettes to wean themselves off regular ones and shouldn’t be stigmatized, according to a pro-industry website funded by NJOY Inc. a Scottsdale, Arizona-based e-cigarette maker.
“The council has worked for well over a decade to curb smoking in New York City and I really believe it’s one of our greatest accomplishments,” Quinn said before the vote. “E-cigarettes threaten, in my opinion, to undermine enforcement of the Smoke-Free Air Act.”
Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, the city has raised tobacco taxes and banned smoking in public places, a move copied by municipalities across the U.S. In a council hearing this month, Farley said failing to ban e-cigarettes would jeopardize progress.