For over a decade, New York City has enforced a city-wide ban on smoking cigarettes in bars, restaurants, parks, beaches, plazas, and other public places. And as of last month, electronic cigarettes have been added to the list of publicly banned tobacco products.
New York’s City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg approved the measure to ban e-smoking in public almost unanimously (43-8). As one of his last acts as mayor, Bloomberg, who has advocated for a number of public health initiatives during his term —like the prohibition on sodas larger than 16 ounces—passed the proposal right on the heels of making New York the first major city to raise the age for buying tobacco to 21.
Vapor smokers in the Big Apple and around the country are outraged at the new restriction, which will take effect in about three months, saying that to categorize electronic cigarettes with tobacco products is misleading and harmful to the mission of creating a smoke-free New York.
However, New York City officials don’t see it that way. In an interview with the New York Times, Councilman James Gennaro, one of the leading supporters of the ban, along with Commissioner Thomas Farley, said that the loophole allowing vapers to “light up” where smokers could not was creating confusion.
“People are lighting up electronic cigarettes in restaurants, creating conflict with other patrons and waiters who have to mediate, they said. Mr. Gennaro said children who could not differentiate between regular and electronic smoking were getting the message that smoking is socially acceptable.”
Farley admitted that although more research is need to know the potential long-term affects of e-smoking, the council decided to act now in order to prevent jeopardizing the progress they’ve made on smoking in the last few years.
Obviously, local e-cig retailers and vapers are disappointed with the ruling.
Only a handful of places have instituted public e-smoking bans or similar measures —among them Arkansas, Utah, North Dakota, and neighboring New Jersey. However, other major cities, like L.A. and Chicago, are now considering similar proposals in light of New York’s example.