E-cigarette ban passed by NY City Council

The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly to

The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly to include electronic cigarettes in the city's ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, parks and other public places. (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly Thursday to include electronic cigarettes in the city's ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, parks and other public places.

"E-cigarettes threaten -- in my opinion -- to undermine enforcement of the Smoke-Free Air Act, and 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," Council Speaker Christine Quinn said before the decision.

Quinn said she believed e-cigarette use would "renormalize" smoking in public places, especially because New York City is a global leader in the smoking ban. "We don't want to step backward," she said. The council approved the ban 43 to 8.

Once signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the ban would take effect in four months.

E-cigarettes -- marketed as a way to quit smoking conventional cigarettes -- contain nicotine, but emit an odorless vapor and are believed to be less dangerous than tobacco.

Several e-cigarette users attended the council meeting, some puffing on their devices in protest.

"It's disappointing for all the people who are really trying to benefit themselves and change their habit to something that is much healthier," said Ilona Orshansky, who owns an e-cigarette lounge in Williamsburg.

Michele Bonan of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network called the ban "a huge win," in part because e-cigarettes are popular among youths.

The council also voted unanimously to set a one-year deadline for the Sanitation Department to study whether polystyrene foam -- also known by the brand name Styrofoam -- can be safely recycled. If not, a ban will be imposed on the material, which is used for food and drink containers and packaging.

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