Smokers rights group sues city over e-cig ban

The city's smoking advocate group, Citizens Lobbying Against The city's smoking advocate group, Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, or CLASH, filed a lawsuit against the city Tuesday over its ban of electronic cigarettes in restaurants, bars and city parks. Photo Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

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The city's smoking advocate group, Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, or CLASH, filed a lawsuit against the city Tuesday over its ban of electronic cigarettes in restaurants, bars and city parks.

The group contends that the law, that was approved in December, is based on pure speculation because there are no signs that the e-cigs, which don't produce second hand smoke, are detrimental to the public's health.

"It has always been our position that the proponents' ulterior motive for smoking bans was never about secondhand smoke protection except as a manufactured scare tactic to turn the mob against an unpopular minority," CLASH founder Audrey Silk said in a statement.

The Council enacted the bill because they said they don't know the full side effects of the e-cigs and the city's health department said it helped encourage people to switch to traditional smoking products. The ban is set to go into effect on April 29.

A spokeswoman for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, said the Council’s actions didn’t violate any city regulation.

“Our legislation ensures the goals of the Smoke-Free Air Act are not undermined and protects the public against these unregulated substances and we are confident it will be upheld in Court,” Mark-Viverito spokeswoman Robin Levine said.

CLASH said the law violates the city charter's One Subject Rule," which restricts legislation topics to only one subject.

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"The [smoking ban] now regulates smoke exposure from tobacco smoking, on the one hand, and e-cig use on the other -- two distinct subjects in violation of the 'One Subject Rule,'" the Joshpe Law Group, the law office that is representing CLASH in the suit, said in a statement.

A spokesman for the city's law department said it will review the complaint once they are served. The health department said the smoking rate dropped significantly since it enacted its cigarette ban in restaurants and bars in 2003.

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