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Suffolk lawmakers ban the use of electronic cigarettes indoors

The Suffolk Legislature on Tuesday banned the use of electronic cigarettes in indoor public spaces, a move it claimed makes the county the first jurisdiction in the nation to forbid the product.

The 12-1 vote, with four abstentions, puts the so-called e-cigarettes on par with traditional cigarettes, barring their use in Suffolk's indoor public spaces. Electronic cigarettes are battery operated devices that look like traditional cigarettes, but supporters say are less harmful.

The vote came after a group of a dozen members of the Long Island Vapors Club, an organization of e-cigarette enthusiasts, pleaded with legislators to spare their hobby from public restrictions.

But the bill's sponsor, Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor), said the battery-operated devices are dangerous and need to be barred from the county's buildings.

"They will be free to use these in the privacy of their own homes, but they will no longer be able to subject innocent people around them to these dangers," he said.

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who voted for the bill before changing his position to abstain after the vote total was announced, said he doesn't believe electronic cigarettes are as dangerous as traditional cigarettes.

"This may be one of the best ways to quit smoking," said Schneiderman, a hotel owner. "It might be good for the economy to create vapor lounges as well."

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