This past Friday, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz signed Local Law Int 9-2, which prohibits the smoking of e-cigs/vapes in public places. The law means that it is now illegal to smoke an electronic cigarette wherever traditional tobacco cigarettes are banned.
Right out of the gate, the e-cig craze spread like wildfire, offering hope to many who saw the device as a way to drop the much frowned-upon tobacco habit. “Vaping” has allowed many smokers to kick the tobacco product, which is considered rank smelling, habit forming and cancerous. E-cig users tend to feel that they are being less obtrusive, since the vapor dissipates rapidly once released into the air. Vaping is relatively non-odiferous, and for a time was labeled “less risky” than traditional smoking. In certain circles, the act of vaping is actually considered “hip” and “trendy”, which some say could introduce an entirely different segment of the population to the “pleasures” of smoking.
Today it is uncertain what the vape health risks are, but opponents state that that is not a reason to take chances with second hand emissions. E-cig users can continue to use the product – they must simply adhere to the same regulations as traditional cigarette smokers. Undoubtedly there will still be plenty of chances to get away with using the devise, as it can be fairly hard to detect.
Opponents to the craze felt that the e-cig allowed users to skirt the public laws, especially since there were so many unknowns surrounding the newfangled devices. While the longterm effects of vaping are unknown, those who oppose the device (from being used in public) say that it’s not just the nicotine that they are worried about, it’s also the aerosol that contains formaldehyde, acrolein, heavy metals, and other chemicals.
Whichever way you slice it, the measure has been signed into law by Poloncarz, backed by Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein, representatives from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (“RPCI”), American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (“ACS CAN”), American Lung Association, the Erie-Niagara Tobacco Free Coalition and the Amherst Tobacco Free Steering Committee, the Asthma Coalition of Erie County, and concerned citizens.
“I am supporting this proposed law in order to protect public health and better ensure that residents who do not use e-cigarettes do not have to breathe the second-hand vapors from those who do. This new law does not restrict an individual’s ability to purchase or use electronic cigarettes, or to enjoy them in establishments that sell these devices, but it does provide the public with the same protection from second-hand vapors that they have from second-hand smoke,” said Poloncarz. “In Erie County, the passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act and ensuing smoke-free laws has created healthier spaces in our parks, public buildings, sports arenas, workplaces, and restaurants. Now is the time to include e-cigarettes in clean air laws and I support this effort to create a healthier Erie County.”
“County Executive Poloncarz is taking a step today to protect the health of the people who live and work here in Erie County,” said James Marshall, PhD, Senior Vice President for Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. “Research conducted at Roswell Park Cancer Institute has proven that e-cigarettes are not emission-free, and that these emissions may pose health risks to nonusers. This is a good policy, informed by both the latest research and the very real and reasonable concerns of the people of Erie County.”
Anthony Billoni, Director of Tobacco Free WNY, stated, “We thank Erie County leaders for maintaining the integrity of the successful Clean Indoor Air Act of New York State. Citizens should not be put in harm’s way from any type of tobacco related emission.”
Erie County Legislator Peter Savage added, “This law protects the public’s absolute right to breathe clean air and it does so in a responsible and reasonable manner. I wish to thank County Executive Poloncarz for signing this very important public health measure into law.”
*The new law will become effective after being filed with the NYS Secretary of State.