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Queens Chronicle

City Council levies wide ranging e-cigarette ban

Devices barred from inside public venues and certain outdoor areas

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Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:58 am, Thu Jan 2, 2014.

Some of those who were smoked out of enjoying a pack of Marlboro in bars and other public places 11 years ago may be the subject of a city ban once again.

The City Council voted 43-8 on Thursday to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in certain public venues, reinforcing the Smoke-Free Air Act passed in 2002, which banned cigarette smoking in bars and later in parks, among other public spaces.

The ban will go into effect 120 days after Mayor Bloomberg signs the bill and businesses such as bars and restaurants will then have six months to put up signs indicating e-cigarettes are not allowed in their establishments.

E-cigarettes are tobaccoless, battery-operated devices modeled to look like real cigarettes. Companies such as Blu sell models in different sizes and colors.

The battery heats up a liquid solution, which either can be a mixture of nicotine and flavoring or the flavoring by itself, and the e-cigarette then emits a vapor to simulate the smoking sensation gained from lighting up a real cigarette.

The law will ban the use of e-cigarettes from indoor public places like restaurants and public transportation facilities as well as outdoor venues such as pedestrian plazas and open-air theaters.

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) authored the bill, while Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) co-sponsored the legislation.

Gennaro spokesman Paul Leonard said it should be signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on Monday.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) was one of eight votes cast in opposition to the bill.

In a statement, Gennaro touted e-cigarettes as devices that “threaten to turn back the important gains we as a city have made in the last decade to de-normalize the act of smoking and to maintain a clean air environment to live, work and play.

“This bill extends the important protections in the Smoke-Free Air Act to prohibit the use of addictive e-cigarettes in our restaurants, bars, parks, beaches and workplaces,” Gennaro said.

“As a co-sponsor of the bill, I am pleased the legislation banning indoor use of e-cigarettes passed,” Dromm said in a statement. “It doesn’t matter that e-cigarettes only produce vapors. It’s pretend smoking and it’s ridiculous. I want to end smoking, period. Allowing e-cigarettes to remain unregulated would have only sent the wrong message.”

While the City Council debated whether to ban the indoor use of e-cigarettes, a national discussion over exactly how safe the devices are has gone on for years.

The American Lung Association says on its website that it is “very concerned about the potential safety and health consequences of electronic cigarettes.”

However, Spike Babaian, the president of a nationwide group of e-cigarette smokers called the National Vapers Club, says that the NVC has completed nearly a dozen studies in recent years and that they have never found e-cigarettes to be dangerous.

The NVC is considering taking legal action against the city concerning the bill, and Babaian believes that kicking e-cigarette smokers outside hurts public health more than it helps it.

“It’s a violation of civil rights to make e-cigarette users stand next to smokers and inhale secondhand smoke. If they did this to people who chew nicotine gum, there would be outrage,” Babain said. “New York City is going to lose business because of this too.”

Because the vapor used in e-cigarettes comes in different flavors, Babaian also does not understand the belief that e-cigarette use will serve as a gateway to smoking real cigarettes.

“If you have something that tastes like raspberry or vanilla, you wouldn’t go inhale smoke that doesn’t taste like raspberry or vanilla,” she said. “But it’s not smoking, how is that going to make people switch to smoking?

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