New York City Council’s Vote to Include E-Cigarettes in Smoke-Free Law Preserves Public’s Right to Breathe Clean Air

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Dec. 19 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – We applaud the New York City Council for voting today to include electronic cigarettes in the city’s Smoke-Free Air Act and prohibit their use in the same workplaces and public places where cigarette smoking is prohibited. New York City’s smoke-free law has worked for more than 10 years to protect the right of all New Yorkers to breathe clean air. Today’s vote will prevent e-cigarettes from undermining this important public health protection. The long-term health risks posed by e-cigarettes and their emissions are still unknown. This legislation will ensure that children and other non-smokers in New York do not needlessly become human guinea pigs while that information is collected.

E-cigarettes currently are not regulated; manufacturers are not required to disclose what is in them or in their emissions; and there are important gaps in our knowledge of their impact on the health of users and non-users. Nicotine and other toxic substances have been found in exhaled e-cigarette vapor. Several of the products include warnings that inhaled nicotine is “very toxic.” Given the uncertainties about the health impact of e-cigarettes, it is prudent to prevent exposure by non-users in workplaces and public places.

Including e-cigarettes in the Smoke-Free Air Act will also simplify enforcement of the law and avoid confusion about where smoking is and isn’t allowed. Businesses and city officials will not have to distinguish between e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes. Those wishing to use e-cigarettes will simply have to step outside, just as cigarette smokers do.

Smoke-free laws also create an environment that encourages smokers to quit and discourages kids from smoking. Today’s action will preserve these benefits.

This new law builds on New York City's strong and innovative efforts to fight tobacco use, which is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States and around the world. We applaud the City Council for approving this legislation and urge other cities and states to follow New York City’s lead, including Chicago and Los Angeles, which are currently considering similar legislation.

We thank Councilman James Gennaro for sponsoring this legislation. We also applaud Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for their unparalleled leadership that has made New York City a global leader in the fight against tobacco. A healthier city is one of their many legacies. We urge Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and the new City Council and Speaker to continue this fight to protect children from tobacco addiction and save lives.

 

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