NYC Health Commissioner Says E-Cigarettes Must Be Banned Because They Look Like the Real Thing

FIN e-cigarette adFIN e-cigarette adYesterday the New York City Council held what The New York Times describes as "one of the most scientifically vague and emotionally charged health committee hearings in recent memory." The scientifically vague part was the justification offered by supporters of a ban on the use of electronic cigarettes in "public places" such as bars and restaurants. The main sponsor of the proposed ban, Councilman James Gennaro, has said it is aimed at protecting children who might mistake e-cigarettes for the real thing, conclude that smoking must be cool again, and proceed directly to a pack-a-day habit that will endanger their health and shorten their lives. Perhaps recognizing that some people might deem this scenario implausible, ban backers offered a few more arguments at yesterday's hearing:

The health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, said electronic cigarettes were such a recent invention that he could not say whether they were hazardous to the health of those smoking them or those who might breathe in secondhand vapor. He said that they do put out fine particles and chemicals, and "I certainly can't guarantee that that is safe."

He said the problem with e-cigarettes was that they made smoking socially acceptable, and that they were a "bridge" for people who went back to smoking regular cigarettes.

"Does it help people quit, or does it help people not quit?" Dr. Farley asked, rhetorically.

Then Dr. Farley indulged in a bit of theater himself, fishing around in his shirt pocket, saying, "Just to give you an idea, I've got one here somewhere," before pulling out an electronic cigarette that he pronounced "indistinguishable" from a real one. He and other supporters of the ban say e-cigarettes confuse people like bartenders and restaurant owners who have to enforce the existing smoking ban, making that ban harder to enforce.

The rationale for the smoking ban was protection of bystanders, and Farley concedes there is no evidence that e-cigarette vapor—which consists almost entirely of propylene glycol (an FDA-approved food additive) and water, plus nicotine and flavoring agents—poses a risk to vapers, let alone the people around them. Still, he "can't guarantee" it is safe, since  e-cigarettes "do put out fine particles and chemicals." So do cooking, perfume, and diner flatulence. Can Farley guarantee those are safe? If not, shouldn't he be demanding a ban on these emissons as well? 

Farley supplements Gennaro's concern about confused children with sympathy for confused bartenders and restaurateurs, who might tell a patron "you can't smoke in here," only to discover that he is in fact vaping. To spare them the embarrassment of such a faux pas, Farley proposes making it illegal to impersonate a smoker. That is one approach. Another would be for the managers of bars and restaurants to instruct their employees in the differences between a burning stick of dried vegetable matter and an e-cigarette, which contains no tobacco and produces no smoke. It is even possible that waiters and bartenders have begun to figure this out on their own. But if bar and restaurant owners do not want to deal with this hassle, they can always ban vaping in their establishments, keeping in mind that they might lose some customers to vaper-friendly competitors. 

Farley's third argument is that e-cigarettes are a "bridge" that leads former smokers back to conventional cigarettes. As with secondhand vapor, there is no evidence whatsoever to support this hypothesis, and the hearing room was full of former smokers who had the opposite experience: E-cigarettes helped them stop smoking, thereby dramatically reducing the health risks they face. That was what made the hearing "emotionally charged": A bunch of self-righteous, know-it-all politicians and bureaucrats want to legally ostracize people who have found a much less dangerous way to get their nicotine fix. By lumping vaping in with smoking, an e-cigarette ban will discourage other smokers from trying a product that could literally save their lives. All in the name of health.

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  • Jon Lester||

    Yes, it's for the children, so they can live in a more repressed environment than their parents.

  • Lord Humungus||

    I thought Coke was the Real Thing

  • Nazdrakke||

    The actual Real Thing is much better.

  • SweatingGin||

    They had songs besides "Epic"?

  • Nazdrakke||

    Blasphemy!

  • ||

  • Nazdrakke||

    They even had the album of the year once.

  • WTF||

    I thought Coke was the Real Thing

    It used to be, before they took the coke out of it.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Pot should be taxed like a Coke, not like a cigarette or alcohol. Actually, those should be taxed like a Coke too.

  • Zeb||

    There are those who would like to tax Coke like alcohol, so careful what you wish for.

  • Almanian!||

    shorter every nanny everywhere: "Derp"

  • ||

    "...Must Be Banned Because They Look Like the Real Thing"

    I guess the Washington Monument is next.

  • WTF||

    I guess the alt-text got banned, too.

  • Nazdrakke||

    Alt-text is still awaiting new funding.

  • Jon Lester||

    Seriously, if that one kid is in pain from other people's vaping, then he needs to be moved to the country, before all the other facts of major-city life take a greater toll on him.

  • Ska||

    That's what drives me nuts about this argument. Stand on a corner in midtown and tell me that somehow the split second of vapor that wafts by is more harmful than the constant output of exhaust from the traffic driving by.

  • Nazdrakke||

  • Nazdrakke||

  • Nazdrakke||

    I quit.

  • Jon Lester||

    Mobile device?

  • ||

    Yeah, that's a classic. I used to have an air cleaner in my apartment in Manhattan. It had a set of electrostatic fins that the air ran through, and I would take the fin assembly out and put it in the dishwasher once a week. You should have seen the dark shit that was on that thing every week. Also, when you have to clean your windowsills every few weeks because they have black dust on them, a vaper is so inconsequential that it's laughable.

  • ||

    The first time I went to NYC I was a kid coming from the clean and salubrious air of Vermont. After 3 days there, my boogers were black.

  • ||

    he could not say whether they were hazardous to the health of those smoking them

    That's probably because no one is smoking them. Because you don't. Fucking. Smoke them.

  • UnCivilServant||

    What? the fumes from the burning plastic aren't getting people high?

  • Dweebston||

    Children could be severely harmed if they mistakenly try to smoke an ecig!

  • ||

    And once again, we see that these people are animists. E-cigs look like the horrible, evil totem that is a cigarette? It has the same supernatural powers of evil! It must be stopped! Objects have power, don't you know!

  • ||

    I remember a story from several decades ago about a teacher who was giving her students tokens for good behavior, doing their homework, etc. that they could trade for items in the class store. Everyone thought it was a great idea until they found out what she was using for tokens. Poker chips!!1!! People went ballistic.

  • ||

    That's pretty much exactly what I'm talking about. Plastic disks? EVIL BECAUSE GAMBLING!

    It's pretty depressing having to live in a world where there are so many people that are this stupid.

  • JW||

    It's pretty depressing having to live in a world where there are so many people that are this stupid.

    Just remember, we're the loony ones.

  • Loki||

    Just remember, we're the loony ones.

    Yep. We're the people who just want to be left alone and have no compulsion to codify our personal preferences or beliefs into law and use the power of the state to force everyone else to live their lives as we see fit, but we're the ones who have something wrong with us.

  • JW||

    Control
    Control
    Fuck you, that's why
    Control

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    The list of busybodies and those who love them seems endless.

  • ||

    Additionally, if the thing with actual smoke coming out of it is "indistinguishable" from the thing without any smoke coming out of it, I'm pretty sure you lost the justification for your first ban.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    The E-cigarette refill liquid that has nicotine in it is banned in Canada. I just am at a loss of words for the nannyism that permeates. I can't puff on nicotine vapour from an e-cig but I can smoke a cigarette or buy a bottle of Bacardi 151. Makes sense.

  • Zeb||

    I wonder if that is because of its intended use or because it is deadly poison.
    Not that I think the ban is good in either case, but that stuff is serious business. I spilled some on my hands once by accident and even after washing off and as someone who routinely uses nicotine, it made me feel rather ill for an hour or so.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    I would say there is a much better chance that it is because they have't figured out how to gain the same revenue from e-cigs as they get from cigarettes.

  • Zeb||

    Or that. I just can't think like those people.

  • Zeb||

    I wonder what new arguments they will come up with if someone makes e-cigs that don't try to look like a cigarette. If you drop the silly light up tip, it won't look much like smoking anymore.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    They have them. My buddy bought one in the US, it looks like an expensive pen. The only thing that lights up is the button you push when youre going to smoke it, and it lights up blue.

    Arguments against this blow my mind. It is a healthier way to smoke for people who like the action of smoking and like nicotine. Of course we must ban it now.

  • Ska||

    Yeah, that's the type I use. It looks more like a clunky Pilot than any type of tobacco product, with stainless steel and a fucking button on it. There are a few brands of disposables that look like cigarettes, but refillable e-cigs generally look completely different from cigarettes.

  • JW||

    You're Stephen Dorf?

  • Loki||

    scientifically vague and emotionally charged health committee hearings

    Couldn't that describe just about all health committee hearings?

    A bunch of self-righteous, know-it-all politicians and bureaucrats want to legally ostracize people who have found a much less dangerous way to get their nicotine fix.

    I suspect their true motivation is that people are still able to get their nicotine fix. Nicotine makes some people feel slightly better, and we can't have that. These people are modern day Puritans, pure and simple, and they can't stand the fact that someone somewhere may be doing something that makes them happy. I hope there's a special level hell, even lower than the one reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the movies, reserved for "public health" bureaucrats.

  • LarryA||

    Couldn't that describe just about all health committee hearings?

  • R C Dean||

    The mask is off (again, I know).

    They aren't motivated by health concerns, not really. They are motivated by their hatred of anyone doing anything they don't personally approve of.

    The good news is, I hate them right back. So there's that.

  • Winston||

    They aren't motivated by health concerns, not really. They are motivated by their hatred of anyone doing anything they don't personally approve of.
    ^
    This. I mean why do people want to legalize pot but want to ban this and tobacco? Is that "social tolerance"?

  • gritzly||

    because this looks like a cigarette.

  • mr simple||

    A sonic screwdriver?

  • FXR||

    Tobacco Control terrorism? People are being groomed by ad campaigns to see stereotypes. Intelligence can see right through the encouragements to embrace ignorance, when you see only people and live beyond the fear.

    Here is how you spell relief;

    If we could get e-cig manufacturers on board we could shut them all up by demonstrating, it is their vision in need of corrections.

    I would be willing to bet someone could make a large fortune at this moment, by selling a fake E-gizmo, That produces harmless smoke, instructing you with a caution "don't inhale".

    Like blowing bubbles except, your producing nothing more dangerous than fog. Then watch for the ways the medical community will stretch reality, to eliminate a product that is absolutely harmless.

    Selling them to children as a toy, that delivers a political statement, against bullying and intolerance by Doctors dictating morality and personal autonomy, with coercion delivered by developing media party stereotypes.

    Placing those statements on the packaging.

    Find the needle in a haystack, as a torment for the neurotics and a make work project for the smoking police.

    How do you define smoking?

    Is the room too dry? is it effecting your sinuses? You need to get yourself a personal room humidifier.

    How about redefining, getting smoked?

    "Officer are you completely daft?

    This isn't an electronic cigarette the led is blue that means it's only water. Get lost you moron"

  • FXR||

    Tobacco Control terrorism? People are being groomed by ad campaigns to see stereotypes. Intelligence can see right through the encouragements to embrace ignorance, when you see only people and live beyond the fear.

    Here is how you spell relief;

    If we could get e-cig manufacturers on board we could shut them all up by demonstrating, it is their vision in need of corrections.

    I would be willing to bet someone could make a large fortune at this moment, by selling a fake E-gizmo, That produces harmless smoke, instructing you with a caution "don't inhale".

    Like blowing bubbles except, your producing nothing more dangerous than fog. Then watch for the ways the medical community will stretch reality, to eliminate a product that is absolutely harmless.

    Selling them to children as a toy, that delivers a political statement, against bullying and intolerance by Doctors dictating morality and personal autonomy, with coercion delivered by developing media party stereotypes.

    Placing those statements on the packaging.

    Find the needle in a haystack, as a torment for the neurotics and a make work project for the smoking police.

    How do you define smoking?

    Is the room too dry? is it effecting your sinuses? You need to get yourself a personal room humidifier.

    How about redefining, getting smoked?

    "Officer are you completely daft?

    This isn't an electronic cigarette the led is blue that means it's only water. Get lost you moron"

  • Pappadave||

    After smoking tobacco for over 52 years, I switched to a e-cig (one of the "clunky" kind in stainless steel) and have never looked back. I'll be using it for a year come next month. My breath smells better, I've lost a persistent cough, the HOUSE smells better--even though I smoked at the fireplace in cold weather and blew the smoke up the chimney and smoked outdoors during warm weather--my false teeth are whiter and never stain any more and my BP is better. I've enthusiastically recommended them for anyone who now smokes. On top of that, a $16-$18, 30 ml vial of the liquid (I prefer "sour apple flavor")is the equivalent of 3 CARTONS of cigarettes, which would cost me $195 dollars--and that at a "discount" store!

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