So long as incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio signs it into action, a bill that will add electronic cigarettes to New York City’s Smoke-Free Air Act was passed by NY City Council Thursday afternoon. The legislation will go into effect in four months and would ban use of e-cigarettes wherever smoking is prohibited.
Similar bans across the country have been proposed under the assumption that vapor from e-cigarettes can be unhealthy for bystanders to inhale. However, the underlying premise for the NYC ban is that allowing vaping indoors will create a confusion among business owners and patrons trying to discern between someone using an e-cig and smoking the real thing. ”Because many of the E-cigarettes are designed to look like cigarettes and be used just like them, they can lead to confusion or confrontation,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.
The unscientific assumption that allowing vaping in public places will also re-normalize smoking, making it attractive to children was also brought up at a previous city council forum. Yet the consumption of alcohol, a substance some consider to be more dangerous than smoking, is still allowed in many family restaurants is far more widely accepted than smoking. Today the council was merely voting on e-cigarettes, devices which have yet to kill a single soul and have the potential to save millions of lives.
The state of New York already has the nation’s highest excise tax on cigarettes, at $4.35/pack, five times more than that of California, with the city taxing an additional $1.50. Many vapers fear that being forced out into the cold to enjoy a puff of an e-cigarette will deter smokers from making the switch, and even turn some back into traditional tobacco users. Could this ban not be the city’s plan to prevent a tax loss associated with its smokers turning to the electronic devices instead of $12 packs of smokes?
From the time the ban goes into effect, businesses will have an additional 6 months to update their “no smoking” signs to include vaping. According to CBS New York, some opponents of the Smoke-Free Air Act amendment say they are planning on fighting back in court, accusing the city of overreaching.
On a side note, the ban was opposed by eight members of City Council, some of whom noted the importance of facts and science over assumption and opinion. One even stated that until there was substantial evidence that e-cigarettes posed a threat to public health, he would have to vote against legislation prohibiting their use. Still, it seemed many were rushed to get home for the holidays with several council members hastily voting “aye to all” of the record 26 bills on the agenda.
The vaping community can only hope the NYC vote doesn’t set precedence and create a domino effect of anti-ecig legislation across the country, and possibly even the world. And who knows? There’s still the slight chance Mayor de Blasio won’t even sign the bill into law.