By Rebecca Henely
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) introduced legislation earlier this month banning the sale of electronic cigarettes, a battery-powered device that allows users to simulate the act of smoking, to minors and prohibiting them from being smoked in places where regular cigarettes are not allowed.
“It turns out they’re not the quote ‘healthy alternative’ that the makers want you to think they are,” Vallone said.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, have been on the market since 2004. Often designed to resemble either a regular cigarette but sometimes shaped like a ballpoint pen or screwdriver, e-cigarettes heat a liquid that can contain nicotine and/or flavoring and create a mist that can simulate smoking. Actress Katherine Heigl demonstrated smoking one on “The Late Show with David Letterman” last year.
Vallone said given the endorsement and the multiple flavors of the electronic cigarettes, such as chocolate, mint, banana and strawberry, it is necessary to keep them out of the hands of children. The new legislation will levy a fine of up to $500 to anyone who is caught selling e-cigarettes to children.
The councilman also cited a U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2009 study that found carcinogens such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze, in e-cigarettes. He said the industry had not been able to make claims as to their effectiveness as a smoking cessation aid.
The FDA also announced Monday it will be regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products.
“I’d rather make sure that our kids aren’t being harmed until we know a lot more about these things,” Vallone said.
The councilman added he wanted the electronic cigarettes banned from being smoked in the same locations regular cigarettes were banned because they could be emitting harmful chemicals.
Thomas Kiklas, co-owner of e-cigarette brand inLife LLC and a member of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, a nonprofit made up of 14 brands of e-cigarettes that advocates for the industry, said the organization agreed with the section of Vallone’s legislation meant to keep e-cigarettes out of children’s hands.
“We are absolutely in favor of any ban of sale of e-cigarettes to minors,” Kiklas said.
But Kiklas said the organization did not agree with the plan to regulate e-cigarette smoking in bars and public parks. He said that while e-cigarettes occasionally contain carcinogens, they contain them at low levels not harmful to humans. He said he believed regulating e-cigarettes would encourage smokers to use regular cigarettes.
“You regulate them to doing what they don’t want to do,” Kiklas said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.