NATO Urges NYC Body to Hold Off on E-Cig Amendment

Argues e-cig vapor does not violate Smoke-Free Air Act

Thomas A. Briant, NATO Executive Director

The New York City Committee on Health is considering an amendment to the city’s Smoke-Free Air Act to ban the use of e-cigarettes in most public places and workplaces. The committee is holding a public hearing on the proposed e-cigarette restrictions this week.

NATO has recommended that the committee hold off acting on the proposed e-cigarette use restrictions until after the FDA issues and adopts new regulations on e-cigarettes and completes scientific research on e-cigarettes.

In comments filed with the Committee on Health, NATO stated that the city’s Smoke-Free Air Act adopted in 1995 and a subsequent amendment to include smoking restrictions in most workplaces in 2002 were based on scientific studies regarding secondhand smoke. NATO explained to committee members that electronic cigarettes do not emit secondhand smoke because no tobacco is burned when an electronic cigarette is used. 

Rather, electronic cigarettes users exhale a vapor and a study conducted by Professor Igor Burstyn of the Drexel University School of Public Health concluded that claims regarding chemicals found in e-cigarette vapor were detected only “in trivial levels that pose no health risk” and are far below current “workplace standards for involuntary exposures.” In other words, the underlying basis supporting the initial adoption and previous amendment of the Smoke-Free Air Act does not support the adoption of a further amendment to include restrictions on the use of electronic cigarettes.

NATO also pointed out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products is creating a comprehensive regulatory framework to regulate electronic cigarettes. The first step in the FDA’s regulatory framework for e-cigarettes will be a new set of proposed federal rules that are currently under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. Once approved by the OMB, the FDA will issue the proposed rules for public comment and then final adoption. 

The second step of this regulatory process is the FDA’s investment in research on electronic cigarettes to answer questions about how these products work, what kind of nicotine is being delivered, and who is using electronic cigarettes. In fact, the FDA and the National Institutes of Health have announced a partnership to create fourteen Tobacco Centers for Regulatory Science with “$53 million in funding in the first year and a potential total of more than $273 million over the next five years to generate scientific research on tobacco products. 

For these reasons, NATO argued that consideration by the New York City Committee on Health of the proposed e-cig amendment to the Smoke-Free Air Act is premature and urged the committee to consider waiting until the FDA issues and adopts its proposed regulations on e-cigarettes and conducts the necessary scientific research and study to support reasonable, effective regulations.