E-cigarettes: The Jury is Out…But It Shouldn’t Be on Extending the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act to Their Use

cheryl_healtonOur Guest Blogger today is Dr. Cheryl Healton, Dean of Global Public Health at NYU and the Director of the Global Institute of Public Health.  She weighs in on the proposed legislation to extend the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act to include e-cigarettes:

The New York City Council will vote tomorrow whether to extend the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act (SFAA) to e-cigarettes. This decision is a key turning point for tobacco control policy and will have potentially broad national and even global implications. How e-cigarettes will influence youth entry to tobacco use and the efforts of people to quit smoking and to stay quit remain unknown, but the net impact could be dire.

Who is the e-cigarette industry?

Increasingly the e-cigarette industry is owned by the tobacco industry, an industry that would not be permitted to exist were it invented tomorrow because it would violate the consumer protection laws of all states and virtually every country in the world. For this reason, a healthy degree of skepticism about the industry’s ultimate goal in buying up e-cigarette manufacturers and creating more “efficient” e-cigarettes should prevail as policy makers establish regulations governing them. It is quite possible that the net effect of e-cigarettes will be to induce greater youth initiation of smoking and reduce the adult cessation rate, but the jury is still out. Both youth and adult smoking rates are at their lowest levels in decades, so much is a stake for the health of the public. There is also much at stake for the tobacco industry as it seeks to apply its considerable marketing acumen and seemingly endless resources to maximize profit by increasing the number who start smoking by enticing youth worldwide to smoke and by trying to retain current smokers.

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Testimony on Proposal to Expand Smoke-Free Air Act to Include E-Cigarettes

Sheelah Feinberg testifying at City Council public hearing

Sheelah Feinberg testifying at a public hearing conducted by the Health Committee of the New York City Council.

Good morning and thank you Council Member Arroyo and members of the Health Committee for the opportunity to speak today.

My name is Sheelah Feinberg, and I am the Executive Director of the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, a program of Public Health Solutions. The Coalition is a public health advocacy group that has worked with over one hundred health and youth focused community groups across the five boroughs to raise awareness around tobacco control and prevention. We support neighborhood efforts for long-term change and believe that all New Yorkers have the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they live, work, and play.

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New York City Council to Hold Public Hearing on E-Cigarettes

Woman smokes an E-cigarette, an electronic substitute in the form of a rod, in BordeauxWe have written about the rise in e-cigarette use, especially among young people. There has been a lot of discussion about the safety and use of e-cigarettes, and many are waiting for the FDA to weigh in on the on how best to regulate them.

The New York City Council has scheduled a hearing this Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 10am in Council Chambers at City Hall on legislation that would add e-cigarettes to the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act that prohibits smoking in the workplace, including bars and restaurants. The legislation would also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in our City’s parks and on our beaches.

If you would like to share your thoughts with the City Council, please join us for the hearing.

Is “Vaping” Better Than Smoking?

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A growing number of smokers are turning to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) to get their nicotine fix instead of smoking traditional cigarettes. Is “vaping” better than smoking?  The e-cigarette industry would like us to believe that it is. But more research needs to be done, and federal regulation is needed.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently does not regulate the manufacture, marketing, and sale of e-cigarettes.  In New York State, they cannot be sold to minors, but other states are still trying to determine how to deal with this relatively new product.  As Mitch Zeller, Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, has said, “Right now, it’s the wild, wild west.”  Buyer beware.

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