NYC Weighs Adding E-Cigarettes to Smoking Ban in Bars, Restaurants

Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013  |  Updated 4:46 PM EDT
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Raising the Legal Smoking Age to 21

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Raising the Legal Smoking Age to 21

Councilman James F. Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) discusses his bill to raise the legal age for tobacco and e-cigarette purchase to 21 in NYC, which will be signed into law tomorrow.
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Proposed legislation that would include electronic cigarettes in the city's ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and other indoor public spaces is coming up for consideration by a committee of the New York City Council.

The council's Health Committee has scheduled a public hearing on the issue for Dec. 4. Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered, and allow users to inhale vaporized liquid nicotine instead of tobacco smoke.

The legislation is sponsored by Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember James Gennaro. They say allowing e-cigarettes in places where tobacco cigarettes are banned threatens "effective enforcement" of the smoking ban because they're designed to look like real cigarettes.

Also, "we all know that smoking is a particularly difficult habit to kick. Allowing smokers an easy way to maintain their nicotine intake indoors can make quitting even harder. Allowing the use of e-cigarettes in places where smoking is prohibited sends the wrong message to children — that smoking is safe," the elected officials said in a statement.

Thomas Kiklas, co-founder and chief financial officer of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, said the organization approves of regulations that treat e-cigarettes the same as tobacco cigarettes.

"It's been our position that electronic cigarettes should be regulated as a tobacco product," he said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration has made anti-smoking efforts a centerpiece of its policies, most recently putting into place landmark legislation that bans the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

In a statement, Dr. Thomas Farley, the city's Health Commissioner, said the health risks of electronic cigarettes are unknown.

"They may introduce a new generation to nicotine addiction, which could lead to their smoking combustion cigarettes," he said.
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