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New York Bans Vaping Indoors In Public: State Law Classes E-Cigs With Cigarettes

Photo caption:

Photo by Tolga Akmen AFP/Getty Images

The state of New York is putting e-cigarettes into the same category as regular tobacco cigarettes, under new restrictions signed into law this week. Here, a man uses a vape device in London last summer, next to a No Smoking sign.

E-cigarettes and vaping are being banned in indoor public areas in New York, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that will place the same restrictions on new and old nicotine delivery systems.

"These products are marketed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes but the reality is they also carry long-term risks to the health of users and those around them," Cuomo said, in a news release about the signing. "This measure closes another dangerous loophole in the law, creating a stronger, healthier New York for all."

Citing the lack of broad regulations on what chemicals e-cigarettes can contain and how much nicotine they deliver, the governor's office says, "These factors could lead to long-term adverse health effects for e-cigarette users and bystanders."

When it takes effect next month, New York's new law will cover vaping under the state's Clean Indoor Air Act. The blanket restriction will not apply to people who want to use e-cigarettes in private homes, in hotel rooms, or at retail tobacco outlets.

The potential dangers of vaping have become a topic of debate and concern in recent years, even as e-cigarettes have gained in popularity. As recently as last spring, many adult Americans said they didn't know whether secondhand e-cigarette aerosol poses a risk to children.

As the Shots blog has reported, "Nicotine, heavy metals and tiny particles that can harm the lungs have been found in secondhand e-cigarette aerosol, according to the Surgeon General."

It wasn't until May of 2016 that the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, part of a broad set of new regulations the agency adopted after years of planning.

Vaping has caused a dilemma for some lawmakers and health policy experts. As NPR's Alison Kodjak has reported, " Some have welcomed the devices as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, whose dangers are well-known, and as an aid to help smokers quit.... Others fear the devices will addict nonsmokers to nicotine and eventually lead to more people smoking."

Vaping's backers — such as the Vaper Rights site — warn that restrictions could bring higher prices, broad bans in public places, and "severely limit or even prohibit flavored products for adult consumers."

In the view of vaping defenders, Vaper Rights says, "E-vapor products are not cigarettes. You don't light them, they don't burn tobacco, and they produce vapor, not smoke (hence 'vaping' vs. 'smoking'). The FDA classifies e-vapor products as tobacco products because they contain nicotine derived from tobacco."

New York joins a growing list of states that have banned vaping in indoor public spaces such as bars and restaurants, in much the same way they restrict smoking. Others on the list include California; Connecticut; New Jersey; and Utah. Some states ban vaping only in areas such as government offices and schools.

As more cities and states have moved to ban vaping indoors, false stories have attempted to stir up controversy and alarm over new regulations. As the Snopes website notes, there is no truth to a story from last August that purported that 11 states were planning to ban vaping in vehicles.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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