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Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 4:07 pm, Thu Mar 27, 2014.

Smokers’ group sues to block new law on e-cigarettes

The Brooklyn-based group CLASH, or Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, said Tuesday it is suing to overturn the city’s new law restricting electronic cigarette use the same way it controls conventional smoking.

The legal theory behind the suit is that the city acted improperly in adding e-cigarettes to its existing Smoke-Free Air Act last December, because the SFAA is explicitly designed to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. Since e-cigarettes do not emit smoke, but instead water vapor, their addition to the law violates the “one-subject rule” in the state Constitution and City Charter, which restricts legislation to only one matter, the plaintiffs contend.

The bill adding e-cigarettes to the SFAA was passed Dec. 13 and signed into law by then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg Dec. 30.

The battery-powered devices contain nicotene but not tobacco. Proponents say they are a safer alternative to cigarettes and can help people quit, while opponents say they can normalize smoking and lure youth into the habit.

“Bloomberg’s Health Commissioner Thomas Farley’s own testimony during hearings affirmed that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that concludes that the vapor in e-cigs is harmful to bystanders, demonstrating it is in direct conflict with the purpose of the SFAA,” plaintiff and e-cig advocate Russell Wishtart said in announcing the suit, which was filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.  

Healthcare signup deadline March 31

Those lacking health insurance are reminded that they must sign up for a plan by March 31 or possibly face a financial penalty under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

There are exceptions, however. According to New York State of Health, the ACA program here, “People who have qualifying life events (marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, etc.) will be able to apply after 3/31.”

The Obama administration on Tuesday softened the deadline for those enrolling on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, saying that people who begin the process there by March 31 but do not complete it on time will not be penalized. There was no immediate indication whether the same break would be given to those signing up on New York’s exchange, though the numerous other changes made to the healthcare law have applied nationwide.

New York State of Health says that as of Monday, 1,055,931 people had completed applications for insurance coverage, and 717,207 had actually enrolled in a plan.

 Can’t anybody here take this survey?

The Mets have come a long way in the 52 years since their amateurish first season, when frustrated manager Casey Stengel famously said that he looked at the bench and asked himself, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

But alas, the Amazin’s still can’t beat out those Damn Yankees in popularity, even here in their home borough of Queens.

Among Queens residents who are interested in major league baseball, 50 percent said their favorite team is the Yankees, while 43 percent picked the Mets, according to a new survey by Quinnipiac University. The Bronx Bombers were the top choice in every borough, and were favored by 61 percent of residents citywide, compared to 27 percent for the Mets.

The Boston Red Sox came in third place citywide, picked by 3 percent. Among their fans is of course hizzoner the mayor, but that gentleman also eats pizza with a knife and fork, so baseball isn’t the only area where he stands a bit apart from most of his constituents.

Cuomo leads GOP’s man

 Gov. Cuomo still has a commanding lead over his only announced Republican challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, but not quite as much as he did before, according to a poll by the Siena Research Institute.

Democrat Cuomo is favored over Astorino 61-26 percent, the survey said, down from 64-22 percent last month, before the GOPer had formally announced his candidacy. 

— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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