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.