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

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.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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