Albany stamps out e-cigarette use in public places

E for extinguish: New York State has upgraded its Clean Indoor Air Act to ban the use of electronic cigarettes and similar products in work and public places.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

You’d better put that out, or turn it off, or otherwise knock it off: In New York, e-cigs are now illegal in the workplace and everywhere else smoking is prohibited.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation adding electronic cigarettes to the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, a circa-2003 law regulating smoking in restaurants, offices and other work and public places.

Kemp Hannon: Toxic avenger.

Although “marketed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes,” the governor said, electronic nicotine and vapor delivery systems – including e-cigarettes, vaping pens, e-hookah and their ilk – contain toxic ingredients.

And with no regulations controlling those chemical levels, including how much nicotine they may contain, public use “could lead to adverse health effects for e-cigarette users and bystanders,” according to the governor’s office.

“The reality is they also carry long-term risks to the health of users and those around them,” Cuomo noted. “This measure closes another dangerous loophole in the [Clean Indoor Air Act], creating a stronger, healthier New York for all.”

Under the previous law, only cigarettes, cigars, pipes and other tobacco-smoking products were restricted in work and public places, including stores and bars. Many New York counties have already banned the use of e-cigarettes in such settings, but the new legislation “makes the law consistent across the state,” according to Cuomo’s office.

Suffolk County adopted a law in 2009 banning the sale of e-cigarettes and similar products to persons under the age of 21 and prohibiting their use “in public places where traditional forms of smoking are already disallowed,” according to the County Code.

Nassau County has not yet passed legislation restricting the sale or usage of electronic nicotine and vapor delivery systems.

But that’s irrelevant now, thanks to the statewide ban, which was sponsored in the New York Senate by a Nassau-based legislator – Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) – and in the State Assembly by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan). The measures were approved by both legislative bodies this summer.

“I am pleased New York will be taking this step to protect New Yorkers from the potential harms of e-cigarettes,” Hannon said in a statement. “E-cigarettes often contain toxic chemicals in addition to nicotine, something bystanders should not be forced to breathe.

“With recent reports showing their use among minors increasing, New York must continue to work to regulate these devices in a common-sense manner.”

A 2016 report by the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General noted that e-cigarette use among U.S. high school students rose an astounding 900 percent between 2011 and 2015. According to the New York State Department of Health, “vaping” among statewide high-schoolers doubled between 2014 and 2016.

The signing of the new workplace and public-space ban marks the second significant measure Cuomo has enacted this year against the public use of e-cigarettes. In July, the governor signed legislation banning their use on all public and private school grounds in the state.