The New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment filed a lawsuit on March 25 in the New York County Supreme Court to overturn the ban on electronic cigarettes — one of Michael Bloomberg’s last acts as mayor.
Audrey Silk, founder of NYC CLASH, said the Clean Air Act was originally about the protection of non-smokers.
“But their ban isn’t about protection, it’s about exposure and keeping smoking from being regular again,” Silk said.
NYC CLASH maintains that the ban is unlawful because it violates the One Subject Rule in the New York State Constitution.
“Private or local bills [can] embrace only one subject, expressed in title,” according to article three of the state constitution.
NYC CLASH lawyer Edward Paltzik said the city council exceeded its lawful authority by allowing the ban.
“By making the smoke-free air act also about e-cigarettes, they have violated the New York State constitution,” Paltzik said.
Tisch sophomore Jacqueline Ridberg has never tried an e-cigarette, but she said there do not seem to be adverse health effects.
“For those trying to quit, the habitual act of smoking an e-cig really helps get people off tobacco,” Ridberg said. “Frankly I don’t see why anyone is anti-e-cig.”
CAS sophomore Aleah Halverson said there is not enough research to know whether e-cigarettes negatively affect users, so Bloomberg’s decision was a good one.
“As someone who doesn’t like to have smoke blown in [his] face, I prefer when smokers use them over regular cigarettes,” Halverson said. “[But] they should be banned until further testing proves they are safe, just like any other drug.”
Only 4.9 percent of college students have ever used e-cigarettes, according to a survey from August 2013 in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal. Researchers polled over 4,000 students from eight colleges.
CAS junior Mark Muster said the principle underlying the cigarette ban applies to e-cigarettes too.
“The cigarette ban exists because a significant group of people didn’t want to be in the presence of smoke,” Muster said. “I still think people should be able to smoke in a bar, but enough people thought the opposite, so that’s how it is. I think it’s being blown out of proportion.”
The de Blasio administration has not released a statement with regard to the suit filed and could not be reached for comment. The city is legally required to respond to the complaint filed by NYC CLASH within 20 days, according to the summons of the lawsuit.
City Council spokeswoman Robine Levine said the city council is not backing down.
“Our legislation ensures the goals of the Smoke-Free Air Act are not undermined and protects the public against these unregulated substances,” Levine said in a statement to Reuters.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 31 print edition. Graham Rapier is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]