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New York City Council Votes to Include E-Cigarettes in Public Smoking Ban

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The New York City Council on Thursday voted to include e-cigarettes in the city’s public smoking ban, NPR reports. The city has had a ban in place on smoking in bars, restaurants, parks, beaches and plazas since 2002.

Los Angeles and Chicago are considering enacting similar e-cigarette bans. Critics of the devices say they are harmful and can be a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes. Supporters of e-cigarettes say they can help smokers quit, and that there is no evidence vapors produced by the devices are toxic. Many scientists say e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will propose rules on regulating e-cigarettes. The FDA is expected to consider e-cigarettes as tobacco products, which will allow the agency to provide the same federal oversight that applies to cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigarette tobacco, and roll-your-own tobacco. E-cigarettes could be subjected to the same requirements for disclosure of ingredients, manufacturing quality and restrictions on sales to minors that apply to regular cigarettes. The FDA proposal is expected to be published in coming weeks.

Last month, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill that raises the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The law will take effect in May 2014. The law also creates penalties for evading cigarette taxes, bans discounts on cigarette sales, requires inexpensive cigars to be sold in packages of no fewer than four, and sets a minimum price of $10.50 for packs of cigarettes and little cigars.

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