That was quick: NY State moves to ban e-cigarettes indoors

It wasn’t too much of a surprise when New York City moved to ban the use of e-cigarettes (or “vaping”) right before Christmas last year because it looked too much like smoking. After all, Gotham bans everything they can lay their little regulatory hands on if it looks like somebody might be enjoying themselves. (Foie gras ban, anyone?) But the state government tends to be at least somewhat slower on the trigger. Not in this case, though. Albany has already taken the next step towards banning vaping indoors all across the state.

The fate of a bill banning electronic cigarettes in public, indoor spaces rests with the state Senate.

The state Assembly on Thursday voted 85-58 to approve the measure, which would make the small, battery-powered vaporizers subject to the same indoor restrictions on traditional cigarettes. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is awaiting a vote as lawmakers vow to return to the Capitol next week.

E-cigarettes have grown in popularity in recent years as an alternative to traditional lit cigarettes. But they aren’t currently affected by the Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking in public, indoor places, including restaurants, bars and all workplaces.

“While electronic cigarettes … are growing in popularity, little is known about the risks associated with smoking them,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said in a statement. “E-cigarettes are currently unregulated, putting New Yorkers at risk. This legislation would protect those who want to avoid secondhand exposure.”

One of the chief reasons being cited by supporters of the ban is a recent study showing an increase in vaping by students. That’s a concern, but there are two aspects of this subject which the study seems to ignore. First, stopping students from smoking regular cigarettes (or vaping for that matter) is the responsibility of their parents and the state is woefully inadequate for the task. That ties into the second question… how many of those kids were smoking tobacco before this? It’s still a serious problem in New York. Too many kids still start smoking early, and if you can steer them away from that by vaping instead, it’s at least better than nothing. (Though really they should be doing neither.)

This ban, if passed, will have a more serious impact on businesses, though. Bars, restaurants, theaters and others lost business when smoking was banned, since smokers were feeling essentially ostracized. Vaping has allowed some of the smokers to not only kick the habit, but go out and take their trade back to those businesses. If this full ban goes into effect they’ll be driven back into the shadows.

Welcome to the nanny state. In fact, at some point we may want to just change the name of New York to reflect that.