News

New York City votes to ban e-cigarettes from public places

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f7677 (Published 23 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7677
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

New York City Council has voted to ban electronic cigarette devices from public indoor spaces—including restaurants, bars, theaters, and sports arenas—as well as private office buildings.

Under the legislation, which amends the 1995 Smoke-Free Air Act, the city’s current law regulating smoking in public spaces, e-cigarettes will also be prohibited in many public open spaces, such as parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas.

The outgoing mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a strong opponent of tobacco use, is expected to sign the legislation into law before he leaves office at the end of the year.

The battery powered devices contain a heating element that vaporizes a flavored nicotine solution, allowing users to inhale the drug much as they would by smoking. Many are designed to look like traditional cigarettes.

Manufacturers of the devices say they offer a much safer alternative to smoking and can be a useful tool for those trying to wean themselves from cigarettes.

In testimony submitted to the council earlier this month, Thomas Brian, executive director and legal counsel of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, a national retail trade association, called the ban premature, given that a review of the product’s safety has not yet been completed by the US Food and Drug Administration. “Sound public policy should be based on scientific data and factual information, not unsubstantiated claims,” he said.

But opponents contend that the devices addict their users to nicotine and make it more likely that they will go on to become cigarette smokers. Of particular concern is the effect that widespread use of the devices will have on young people, said Thomas Farley, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in testimony before the council.

“The impact of social acceptability should not be underestimated; children and young adults are heavily influenced by whether they feel a behavior is viewed positively by their peers. If smoking becomes more socially appealing or even glamorous again we can be virtually certain that smoking rates in teenagers will rise,” he said.

Recent studies have found that e-cigarette use among US high school students more than doubled between 2011 and 2012, from 4.7% to 10%, indicating that they are increasingly popular among young people.1

In a statement announcing the results of the vote on 19 December, the council’s speaker, Christine C Quinn, defended the council’s action: “Plain and simple: the Smoke-Free Air Act has saved lives and benefited businesses to boot. Smoking rates are at all time lows, and New Yorkers are healthier than ever. We can’t afford to jeopardize these monumental accomplishments.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7677

Footnotes

  • bmj.com Analysis: Promotion of electronic cigarettes: tobacco marketing reinvented? (BMJ 2013;347:f7473, doi:10.1136/bmj.f7473); Observations: Big Tobacco lights up e-cigarettes (BMJ 2013;346:f3418, doi:10.1136/bmj.f3418)

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