It can be a real drag to be a smoker in New York, with the various smoking bans and wallet-busting prices.
But New Yorkers who’ve turned to electronic cigarettes — which release water vapor instead of smoke — could also be out of luck as state lawmakers move closer to banning them Tuesday.
The proposal, motivated by questions over the product’s health risks — has some huffing mad.
“It’s not about a public health campaign, it’s a public hate campaign,” said Audrey Silk, founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. “Going after e-cigarettes is the cherry on top of that assertion.”
While the Assembly Health Committee will vote on banning sales of e-cigs in the state, those who already have them will be in the clear and keep puffing away legally if it’s eventually signed into law.
Many New Yorkers have turned to e-cigs because they’re cheaper, believed to be safer and can typically be used in places where smoking is banned. According to the AP, millions worldwide are “smoking” e-cigs.
The bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), told amNewYork that until the FDA approves e-cigarettes for smoking cessation or other medical purposes, it should be banned outright.
“The FDA has already said (e-cigarettes) contain carcinogens and chemicals found in antifreeze. But we don’t know exactly what’s in these products,” said Rosenthal, adding that she kicked her own smoking habit after using nicotine patches.
Scott Kim, 30, of Queens, has enforced a self-imposed ban on e-cigarettes after trying one before.
“God knows what’s in that filter,” Kim said.
The FDA, permitted to regulate e-cigs as tobacco products, said it was “concerned” about them in a 2009 analysis. Despite the findings, they still don’t have warning labels. The agency’s push to have them classified as smoking-cessation devices, forcing manufacturers to prove their effectiveness, was denied in court.
Rob Freeman, an office manager at e-cigarette manufacturer Apollo, said the company doesn’t market its product as a deterrent to smoking.
“We do not try to tell people this is a way to quit smoking because it’s not,” Freeman said. “But I like to have my choice to use it.”
The ban in New York would still need support in the State Senate and from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His spokesman did not return a request for comment.
(With Tim Herrera)