E-Cigarette Ban In Public Places Considered In New York City, Chicago

As the popularity of e-cigarettes continues to sweep the nation, major hubs like New York City and Chicago aren't so sure. Both cities prohibit the smoking of regular cigarettes in public places — bars; restaurants; offices — and both are considering updating their ban on public smoking to include electronic cigarettes. So far, no state has laid out specific rules for e-cigarettes, which emit less smoke and are perceived as less dangerous and invasive than regular tobacco cigarettes. In ten years' time, e-cigarettes are estimated to be more popular than normal cigarettes; if other cities and states catch onto the trend, using them in public places might be as much a thing of the past as, well, normal cigarettes. We can already imagine the "In our day..." stories we'll tell our grandkids...

The popularity of e-cigarettes has grown rapidly over the least couple of years, and most major tobacco companies now manufacture electronic versions of their classic cigarettes. So far, no major city has banned e-cigarettes in public places, which has been a major plus point for e-smokers — not to mention, e-cigarettes are generally perceived as less toxic, more socially acceptable, and safer. But anti-smoking policies were emphasized by ex-NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, most recently raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21, and the city council is sticking by Bloomberg's values.

The legislation to be considered by the NYC City Council on Dec. 4 is sponsored by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Councilmember James Gennaro. It states that allowing e-cigarettes in public places thretatens "effective enforcement" of the smoking ban: "We all know that smoking is a particularly difficult habit to kick. Allowing smokers an easy way to maintain their nicotine intake indoors can make quitting even harder," the two said in a statement. "Allowing the use of e-cigarettes in places where smoking is prohibited sends the wrong message to children — that smoking is safe."

Over in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked the City Council to consider treating e-cigarettes just Chicago treats normal cigarettes, thus banning them in public places and prohibiting minors from buying them. They'll consider the proposal Nov. 3, just a day before New York does the same.

Opponents of e-cigarettes point out that not much is yet known about their potential risks; that relaxing regular-cigarette rules for e-cigarettes, as the EU has done, could lead to a rise in the smoker population; and that e-cigarettes are targeted at young people, thus encouraging them to become smokers.