Bloomberg's E-Cigarette Freeze-Out

Leaked draft of ordinances reclassifies, restricts availability, bans display of electronic cigarettes

NEW YORK -- In what one expert said "would be a public health disaster," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg--known for being a proponent of banning big sodas and trans fats--wants to enact what amounts to a ban on electronic cigarettes, according to a leaked draft of three tobacco-related bills heading to the City Council, first reported by the Gothamist website.

The new definition of "tobacco products" under city law would be changed to include e-cigarettes and related components, parts and accessories. If the ordinances pass, the display of e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco would be banned in retail stores.

Click here to view the full text of the ordinances.

As reported in a Raymond James/CSP Daily News Flash on Friday, the documents were leaked by the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), an advocacy group aimed at raising awareness and protecting rights to access to reduced harm alternatives.

Click here to view the CASAA's "Call to Action" blog post on the subject.

CASAA also has issued calls to action recently on e-cigarette use bans in California, Tooele, Utah and Canton, Mass.

Initially the New York City bills, drafted by the Health Department and introduced into the City Council at the request of Bloomberg, were silent concerning the city's position on e-cigarettes. "The bills were written with no intention of addressing electronic cigarettes at all," Health Department commissioner Thomas Farley told e-cigarette proponents at a hearing in May, according to Gothamist.

The draft language reveals that this is no longer the case, said the report. While menthol and tobacco flavored e-cigarettes would ostensibly remain available at convenience stores, the burgeoning flavored e-cig market would be relegated to "tobacco bars," of which there are very few in New York City, the report said, mostly because they must have been in existence before Dec. 31, 2001.

"This is a de facto ban on electronic cigarettes," Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health and a supporter of electronic cigarettes, told Gothamist. "Pretty much all electronic cigarettes are flavored; they're essentially flavored products. You're basically telling a bunch of ex-smokers to go back to cigarettes. I think this would be a public health disaster."

Click here to view Siegel's blog post on the subject.

The bill also makes the claim that, "Electronic cigarette marketing is often designed to deter smokers from quitting and to attract youth."

"It's an inane statement and there's no support for it. It just doesn't make any sense. It's crazy," Siegel said. "What e-cig companies want you to do is use their products as much as possible, otherwise they don't make as much money."

Bloomberg spokesperson Samantha Levine declined to comment on the specific language in the bills, telling the news outlet only, "We are in ongoing discussions with the Council."

A spokesperson with the Health Department also declined to comment on the language of the draft; it told Gothamist : “We are currently working on several tobacco bills with the Council. As part of any legislative process, there are various drafts and versions before a bill becomes final."

CASAA spokesperson Gregory Conley said he was surprised at the proposed bill's language given the tenor of the meeting in May. "Approximately 20 e-cigarette users spoke before the Health Committee and it was strongly implied by the Council members that the ordinances would be amended to protect consumer access to low-risk alternatives," he told the website. "It appears that the Bloomberg administration is banking on the City Council rubber stamping their new ordinances, the passage of which would constitute a backdoor, unannounced ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and e-cigarette liquid in New York City."

Click here to read the full Gothamist report.