Tuesday, January 25, 2011

N.Y. lawmakers aim to ban 'e-cigarettes'

USA Today
Associated Press
January 25, 2011

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a bill that would make the state the first to ban electronic cigarettes, devices touted on the Internet in ads promising all the pleasures of smoking without the deadly health threat.

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.
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Advocates — who say there is a nationwide grass-roots movement to keep e-cigarettes available — say the proof is in their health.

"I find it difficult to believe that my wheezing and productive morning cough would have magically disappeared sometime between March 2009 and now if I had continued smoking, waiting for someone to proclaim e-cigarettes 100% safe," said Elaine Keller of Springfield, Va. She is vice president of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association.

"Why do politicians and organizations that claim to be protecting public health want to take away options that could save smokers' lives?" she said Tuesday.
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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 competitor.

The supporters of e-cigarettes are now watching New York "very closely. They kind of snuck up on us," said Keller.

She 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" product.

"There is no industry support on this thing at all," Keller 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% safe," Keller said. "The thing is, it only needs to be safer. The only standard is that it's safer than smoking."
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