ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York lawmakers are considering what could become the first
state ban on electronic cigarettes, devices touted on the Internet
in ads promising all the pleasures of smoking without the deadly
Health officials say e-cigarettes are just another addictive
habit, one that can hook kids early and legally on smoking. But
advocates who have used the devices to quit or cut down smoking
tobacco call the battery-operated smokes a miracle.
"I got interested in this because I saw all these ads for
e-cigarettes, so I did some research," said Assemblywoman Linda
Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat. "I found what is in the
e-cigarettes is a mystery."
She wants to ban e-cigarettes in New York until they are more
thoroughly investigated and regulated. The bill could be voted out
of the Assembly Health Committee as early as Tuesday, said
Rosenthal, a 20-year smoker who quit more than a dozen years
Her bill was approved in the Assembly last year but stalled in
the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats. Senate Health
Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon, a Republican, said the bill likely
will be considered by his committee and a hearing may be held, but
it's too early to predict what will happen with the proposal.
E-cigarettes have prompted debate nationwide since they became
widely available in the United States in 2006. But as either a
tobacco cigarette substitute or a much more extensively tested and
restricted drug-delivery device, the future of e-cigarettes will
likely be decided by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA lost
a court case last year after trying to treat e-cigarettes as
drug-delivery devices, rather than tobacco products, because
e-cigarettes heat nicotine extracted from tobacco.
Powerful lobbies are involved. If treated as a tobacco product,
e-cigarettes would avoid the research and trials required of
competitors in the pharmaceutical industry, including anti-smoking
patches and inhalers. As a medical device, e-cigarettes could draw
opposition from that powerful lobby as a fresh and less expensive
Advocates of e-cigarettes are now watching New York "very
closely. They kind of snuck up on us," said Elaine Keller of
Springfield, Va., vice president of the Consumer Advocates for
Smoke-Free Alternatives Association.
"I would still be smoking if not for this product," she
Keller said she has been tobacco free since March 2009 after 45
years of smoking. She said her group amounts to a grass-roots
effort of those who feel the government has blocked this "miracle"
"There is no industry support on this thing at all," she said of
the organization. "We want to keep it this way so no one can say we
are a shill for the tobacco, drug or e-cigarette industry."
She also tries to recast the safety question.
"I can't point to anything to say it's 100 percent safe," Keller
said. "The thing is, it only needs to be safer. The only standard
is that it's safer than smoking."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights