The Corner

New York City Council Passes Ban on Public Use of E-Cigarettes

One of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s final acts before leaving office will be to sign a law expanding the New York City smoking ban to include electronic cigarettes. The City Council voted 43 to 8 last night in favor of banning the use of e-cigarettes in public places where smoking is currently illegal, effective in four months.

The battery-powered devices deliver vaporized nicotine to the user without burning tobacco, so second-hand “smoke” is not the concern. Supporters of the ban have instead cited fears that their health effects are not yet known (though there is a consensus that they are much less harmful than traditional cigarettes), and most of all, that their widespread use would erode the stigma of public smoking. Speaker Christine Quinn worried that e-cigarettes could “renormalize” that behavior. “We don’t want a step backward with that,” she said.

Other council members who favored the ban have cited concerns that the use of e-cigarettes in places where smoking is not allowed causes confusion and can result in conflicts and confrontation. Councilman James Gennaro worried that children who could not tell the difference between the two would get the wrong message that smoking was acceptable.

Miguel Martin, the president of an e-cigarette company, is not impressed by that logic: “That’s like saying we shouldn’t be able to sell water because it looks like vodka,” he told the Associated Press.

Andrew Stuttaford had an excellent piece on the war on e-cigarettes back in the September 2 issue of NR (available to subscribers for free, or to non-subscribers for 25 cents, here). Here’s a relevant bit:

The campaign against tobacco began with the best of intentions, but it has long since degenerated into an instrument for its activists both to order others around and to display their own virtue. And with that comes an insistence on a rejection of tobacco so absolute, so pure, that it has become detached from any logic other than the logic of control, the classic hallmark of a cult. So mighty is the supposed power of this anathematized leaf that anything — even when tobacco-free — that looks like a cigarette or provides any approximation of its pleasures is suspect.