redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
In one of his final acts as the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg signed a law expanding the Big Apple’s ban on indoor smoking to include electronic cigarettes, various media outlets have reported.
According to a CNN.com blog, Bloomberg gave his seal of approval Tuesday to an initiative expanding the city’s Smoke Free Air Act. Now, use of the battery-operated devices will be prohibited in offices, bars, restaurants and even in city parks.
While Columbia University professor Amy L. Fairchild told CNN’s Poppy Harlow that smoking is “one of the most important public health problems” in the US today, Business Insider’s Dylan Love counters that e-cigarette supporters would be “sure to hate this [new law] because the ‘smoke’ coming out of an electronic cigarette is actually nothing more than water vapor.”
“Smokers turn to them to get their nicotine fix in bars and restaurants and funeral homes and operas and anywhere else that smoking is banned,” Love added. Now, however, since the devices “will be legally identified” as equal to cigarettes, “e-cig smokers will no longer enjoy the loophole/exception” that permitted their use anywhere.
After Bloomberg signed the bill, two protesters immediately lit up cigarettes in the City Hall Blue Room in protest, according to the New York Daily News. One of those protestors was Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (CLASH) founder Audrey Silk, who had her cigarette seized by security.
“Good people disobey bad laws,” Silk told reporter Erin Durkin. Bloomberg, who Durkin described as “nonplussed” by the protest, said, “We just don’t permit smoking in public buildings. I think it’s time to leave. Thank you very much.” The new bill was one of 22 signed by the outgoing mayor on Tuesday, with the others including a ban on Styrofoam and a measure designed to reduce toxic emissions from trade waste delivery vehicles.
However, it is the bill equating e-cigarettes to the actual tobacco-based products they are designed to replace that has generated the most media buzz, due largely to the controversy surrounding the devices themselves.
While supporters tout that they are safe and effective replacements for cigarettes, a group of 40 state attorneys general petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September, calling upon the agency to begin regulating e-cigarettes in much the same way that they do tobacco products.
Earlier in December, a poll of American parents conducted by the University of Michigan found that nearly half of them were concerned that their sons and daughters will use e-cigarettes, and 44 percent of those polled feared that the devices will encourage children and teenagers to start using actual tobacco products. Furthermore, 86 percent of those adults were in favor of prohibiting sale of the devices to anyone under the age of 18.