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Council bill aims to limit use of e-cigarettes as their popularity grows – nytimes.com

Salem cigarettes

The city has long prohibited smoking in workplaces, and since 2002 under the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has extended the ban to bars and restaurants, parks, beaches and plazas. Now, a councilman and the city s health commissioner say that more and more people are using electronic cigarettes battery powered, smokeless nicotine delivery systems in public places, and that this poses a threat to public health and may encourage a new generation to smoke.

The councilman James Gennaro, one of the lead sponsors of the proposal to ban e cigarettes in public places, and the commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, said that a loophole in current law allowing for electronic cigarettes was sowing confusion.

People are lighting up electronic cigarettes in restaurants, creating conflict with other patrons and waiters who have to mediate, they said. Mr. Gennaro said children who could not differentiate between regular and electronic smoking were getting the message that smoking is socially acceptable.

We see these cigarettes are really starting to proliferate, and it s unacceptable, Mr. Gennaro said on Wednesday. I get reports of people smoking cigarettes in public libraries. Certainly, they re becoming more common in restaurants and bars.

But the makers of electronic cigarettes say that they are safe because they do not burn tar or tobacco, and they signaled their readiness on Wednesday to fight the proposed ban vigorously. They say the e cigarettes are a good alternative to regular smoking for people who cannot quit.

I think you have to ask yourself, if you make it just as inconvenient to use an electronic cigarette as a tobacco cigarette, people are just going to keep smoking their Marlboros, said Craig Weiss, president and chief executive of NJoy, one of the larger electronic cigarette companies. That does not benefit the public.

A public hearing before the Council is set for next Wednesday, and the Council is expected to vote on the proposal on Dec. 19, at its last scheduled voting meeting before new members and a new mayor take office.

New York and Chicago are among the first large cities to consider banning e cigarettes. New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah have recently included electronic cigarettes in their bans on smoking in workplaces, bars and restaurants, according to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation.

So have dozens of localities, including Pittsfield, Mass. Savannah, Ga. Ketchum, Idaho and Suffolk County, on Long Island.

Electronic cigarettes are designed to imitate conventional cigarettes by using a heating element to vaporize a flavored liquid and, typically, nicotine. The vapor is inhaled, a process sometimes called vaping rather than smoking, and transmits the nicotine that smokers crave.

Dr. Farley and other advocates of a ban say that electronic cigarettes have not been well studied and should be treated warily because their potential hazards are unknown. While more study is needed on electronic cigarettes, waiting to act is a risk we should not take, he said.

But Mr. Weiss said that to argue against something based on lack of knowledge was not a reasonable way to make public policy.

Without the information, I m going to regulate that s not an appropriate thing to do, he said.

Karen Blumenfeld, executive director of an antismoking group called GASP, for Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy, said on Wednesday that the claim that electronic smoking was safe reminded her of the ’40s, 50s and 60s, when doctors used to say smoking was good for your throat, it would calm your nerves.

Opponents of e cigarettes also argue that they are a gateway to conventional cigarettes, particularly for teenagers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the percentage of middle and high school students who use electronic cigarettes more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. In a statement with that report, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the C.D.C. director, said teenagers who used e cigarettes could become addicted to nicotine and go on to smoke regular cigarettes.

But Mr. Weiss, the NJoy executive, said There is no scientific data to support the argument that e cigarettes are a gateway to smoking. On the contrary, there is a significant amount of research that indicates e cigarettes can be a novel approach for moving smokers away from tobacco cigarettes.

The e cigarette industry is growing and seems to have a hip image. One electronic cigarette company, Blu, has been acquired by the tobacco company Lorillard.

The former Facebook president Sean Parker and Peter Thiel, a co founder of PayPal, have invested in Njoy. Mr. Weiss said that he saw Mr. Parker s and Mr. Thiel s investment as evidence not so much of trendiness as of a prediction that electronic cigarettes were paradigm shifting in the way of successful Internet companies.

At several bars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Wednesday evening, patrons and bartenders said they were not bothered by electronic cigarettes.

Lisa Graziano, 39, a bartender at the Charleston, said she enjoyed smoking e cigarettes, even though she abhors regular cigarettes.

I m very much against smoking, but with these there s no smoke, she said, blowing billows of sweet smelling steam after drawing on a thin, black tube with a tip that glowed lavender.

I remember when Bloomberg passed the original ban, I was so happy, she said. I don t even smoke but I love the hookah a type of electronic cigarette. You push the button and you get the flavor.

To emphasize her point, she smoked it next to a pregnant woman, who said she was not bothered.

It certainly doesn t bother anyone around here, and that s the point, Ms. Graziano said. I despise regular cigarettes.

David Slifkin, 45, the Charleston s manager, said he did not think business would be affected by any ban. The people who smoke those in here, it s less than 2 percent, he said.

Cory Sterling, 27, a bartender at the Gibson, called the proposed ban a little silly. He added, It doesn t seem to bother any of the customers, and when it s cold and no one wants to stand outside, it s a good alternative.