As the fight over electronic cigarette continues to rage in New York City, supporters have become increasingly vocal. While city officials are pushing for e-cig bans and strict regulations, vapers are not going down without a fight. On Wednesday, a slew of e-cig supporters showed up to a City Council meeting and filled the room, while vaping defiantly.
As a huge cloud of vapor hung in the air, the City Council had no legal power to prevent them from using e-cigs. So far, there is no law that makes it illegal to vape in the City Hall or anywhere else in New York City. So protesters decided to give the officials a closer look at vaping by forcing them to see it in person. They also gave testimonies about electronic cigarettes, sharing truths and debunking myths.
Jesse Gaddis, a representative from Bedford Slims e-cig company based in Brooklyn, participated in the protest. He vaped openly as he gave his testimony and told the Council members, “The facts are that this isn’t smoking… this is vapor.”
The City Council is currently deliberating a proposal to ban e-cigs from all public places where traditional cigarettes are not allowed. That would mean e-cig users could not vape in bars and restaurants anymore. Instead, they would be forced outside to vape in the cold alongside those that are smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Many council supporters are pushing for the new e-cig bans, with speakers like Christine Quinn insisting that the city needs to force the regulations to protect kids. Quinn insists that e-cig use is growing among children and it must be addressed immediately.
Others argue that e-cig bans are necessary because business owners might not be able to tell the difference between vaping and smoking. It could potentially lead to smoking in public places again; despite years of progress in eliminating second hand smoke dangers in the city.
Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley from the health department said that consumers might not really know what they are inhaling because e-cigs are not controlled or regulated. “We don’t know how much nicotine is in them,” he said.
However, the e-cig users in attendance told a different story. “I started smoking Parliament Lights when I was 12 and I was smoking a pack a day by the time I was 16,” said Ilona Orshansky. The 29-year-old e-cig supporter owns Vapor Lounge NY in Williamsburg and she credits electronic cigarettes with helping her give up tobacco cigarettes. “I quit 10 months ago. I vape a tobacco flavor. It tastes like a Parliament.”
Perhaps the most compelling testimony came from Dr. Gilbert Ross, executive director of the American Council on Science and Health. “E-cigarettes have the potential to be a public health miracle,” he said. He pointed out that e-cigs offer a less harmful alternative for nicotine users along with a simple smoking cessation path that could help many smokers finally quit. Dr. Ross went on to warn that banning e-cigs could potentially cause many people to start smoking real cigarettes again, causing a counterproductive effect.
The potential e-cig ban isn’t really surprising for New York City, a place known for over the top policies. They have already restricted sugary drinks and junk food, so it’s natural that e-cigs would be their next logical target. It seems that the city’s public health officials have changed their focus from dealing with known harms and instead, they are focusing on potential threats. Despite no real evidence that e-cigarettes cause enough harm to justify strict regulations, city officials justify a ban simply be saying they “might” be dangerous and should be regulated just in case.
Do you think that e-cig supporters did the right thing by vaping in the City Council meeting or will it only feed the fire to ban e-cigs from public places?