New York City Council Votes for Restrictions on e-Cigarettes

Council member James  Gennaro & Speaker Christine Quinn. 12.19.13 Photo by Maurice Pinzon

Council member James Gennaro & Speaker Christine Quinn. 12.19.13 Photo by Maurice Pinzon

By New York News Network
On Thursday, the New York City council in its final meeting for the 2010-2013 session voted to ban electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes,” in places where regular cigarettes are restricted.

The legislation, whose prime sponsor was Council member James F. Gennaro, was touted as a major achievement by Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn at a news conference before the vote.   Speaker Quinn indicated that the city council had worked for more than ten years to restrict cigarettes and that e-cigarettes would become an obstacle to those gains.  

“The Smoke-Free Air Act has saved lives, benefited businesses, and reduced the number of young people who start smoking, and end up hooked, ” she said.  

“Using electronic cigarettes in places where smoking is permitted,” Ms. Quinn said, “threatens, I fear, to re-normalize smoking in public places because people are going to be confused.”   She said the use of e-cigarettes was bound to put in jeopardy the “monumental accomplishments” of New York’s efforts to curb smoking.    

The New York City Smoke-Free Air Act bands smoking in numerous public places, bars, restaurants and workplace office buildings.

Council member Gennaro cited a comment by David Sylvia, an Altria Client Services spokesperson who said in an interview with The Daily Beast, “Our company is not in the business of making products for cessation.”

In addition, Mr. Gennaro said, the makers of e-cigarettes had sued the FDA so that those devices would not be considered smoking cessation devices, and thus, not subject to regulation by the FDA.  

Mr. Gennaro said he would take the industry at its word, and therefore, the e-cigarette legislation was simply “a common sense step.”
But in an email statement provided to New York News Network, David B. Sutton, a spokesman for Altria, the maker of The MarkTen™ e-cigarette, said, “We also support FDA extending its regulatory authority over all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. FDA will have the authority to determine the appropriate warnings for e-cigarettes.”

“We believe science- and evidence-based FDA regulation can foster innovation in products that may reduce tobacco-related harm,” the statement added.

Altria is opposed to “bans or broad restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes in public places, including indoor spaces,” because “e-cigarettes are different from cigarettes. They produce vapor, not smoke.” And that the “U.S. Surgeon General has not concluded that vapor from e-cigarettes presents health risks to bystanders.”

Nor did significant data. “Regulation of e-cigarette use in public places should follow the
science and evidence, which is still developing,” the statement said.

The legislation will have to be signed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in order to become law. Mayor Bloomberg’s last day in office is in 10 days.

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