Lawmakers in New York have proposed a statewide ban on electronic cigarettes, the Associated Press reported Jan. 25.
The bill was introduced by a former smoker, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), after she saw e-cigarettes on sale at malls and encountered ads for them online.
“So I did some research,” she said. “I found what is in the e-cigarettes is a mystery.”
Before more of the devices are sold to adults, Rosenthal wants the FDA to rule on whether they actually help smokers quit. The New York Assembly approved her bill last year, but it has yet to pass the Senate. If New York passes the bill, it would become the first state in the nation to ban e-cigarettes.
“E-cigarettes are for some people a tool for enabling them to continue their nicotine addictions when they are someplace where they can’t smoke,” said Richard Gottfried, who chairs the Assembly Health Committee. “I don’t think that’s good for public health.”
Proponents of e-cigarettes say they are healthier than cigarettes and should be legal. Elaine Keller, of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, said that the “wheezing and productive morning cough” she acquired after 45 years of smoking vanished after she switched to e-cigarettes in March 2009.
Keller dismissed concerns about the safety of the devices. “I can’t point to anything to say it’s 100 percent safe,” she said. “The thing is, it only needs to be safer. The only standard is that it’s safer than smoking.”
Russ Sciandra, director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York, disagreed. “Maybe it stops some from smoking, but maybe it helps some kid start.”
Health officials, according to the Associated Press, are concerned that e-cigarettes are addictive and could “hook kids early and legally on smoking.”