Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CASAA's Testimony to the New York City Council regarding proposed ordinance to include e-cigarettes in NYC Smoke-Free Air Act

December 17, 2013

Re:  Proposed Int. 1210-A

Dear Members of the New York City Council:

On behalf of its members in New York City and surrounding cities, The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA)[1] urges you to reject Proposed Int. 1210-A that would include electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”) in New York City’s Smoke-Free Air Act. 

While we appreciate the City Council’s desire to protect the health of the citizens of New York City, CASAA respectfully submits that not only would banning the use of e-cigarettes in public places not further public health, it would actually work against the interests of public health by discouraging smokers from using smoke-free e-cigarettes that, like smokeless tobacco products, pose an estimated 1% of the risk of smoking.[2]  Given that e-cigarette use poses no hazard to bystanders[3] and is unquestionably low-risk for the user, CASAA urges the City Council to reject the proposed ordinance as seeking a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Simply stated, e-cigarettes are one of the most promising public health innovations of the last half-century and have already been shown to help smokers quit smoking cigarettes.[4]  Restrictions seeking to treat e-cigarettes exactly the same as smoking are more about politics and ideology than about science and genuine health concerns. 

I. E-cigarettes do not produce smoke and pose no risk to bystanders and, as such, should not be included in smoking bans.

Smoke-free laws were passed ostensibly to protect bystanders from the effects of second-hand smoke.  However, because there is no combustion involved in their use, e-cigarettes do not produce smoke.  Rather, liquid is gently heated to the point where a vapor is formed.  Various studies have examined the composition of the vapor produced by e-cigarettes, and none have found any reason to believe that bystanders are at any risk.

The vapor, which contains no products of combustion or harmful quantities of any toxic substances, begins to dissipate almost immediately, and there is typically little or no detectable odor.  (If there is an aroma, bystanders usually describe it as pleasant and smelling not at all like smoke.) 

Professor Igor Burstyn of the Drexel University School of Public Health recently published a review of 9,000 observations about the chemistry of the vapor and liquid in e-cigarettes.[5]  Dr. Burstyn performed this review to determine the potential risk that e-cigarettes pose to users and bystanders. He concluded that e-cigarette users are exposed to levels of chemicals far below those that would create any health concern. Most importantly for present purposes, Dr. Burstyn also determined that that the levels of chemicals in e-cigarette vapor were so trace so as to present no measurable risk to bystanders.

Even the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, and the American Heart Association acknowledge that smoke-free laws do not require a ban on e-cigarettes.  Last year, those three organizations agreed to specifically exempt smoke-free e-cigarettes from a smoking ban in Springfield, Missouri so as to avoid any confusion over their legal status.[6] 

Including e-cigarettes in smoking bans when there is absolutely no proof of appreciable risk to bystanders is not only inappropriate, it represents legislative overreaching.

II.  Unintended Consequence of the Proposed Ordinance:  Discouraging smokers from switching to lower-risk alternatives.

Banning the use of smoke-free e-cigarettes in public places may actually work against the New York City Council’s stated purpose of promoting the health of its citizens.

The concept of Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR)—replacing tobacco cigarette smoking with far less hazardous sources of nicotine—is becoming increasingly recognized as a valid strategy in combating the crippling health problems associated with smoking.  

As noted by the Royal College of Physicians, a large percentage of smokers may never be able to give up all use of nicotine.[7]  For those who feel they are unable or unwilling to completely quit nicotine use, switching to a smokeless alternative can achieve substantial health benefits, with many such products carrying only about 1% of the risk posed by smoking.  Low-risk products embraced by THR include smokeless tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and long-term use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products.[8] Smoke-free e-cigarettes are proving to be one of the most promising of the THR products.

Rather than treat all tobacco products as equally dangerous, politicians and health care advocates should embrace THR.  In fact, both Indiana and Nebraska have passed proclamations embracing the concept of THR, recognizing that current strategies simply are not effective enough. 

Sound public health policy surely would encourage smokers to replace or reduce their cigarette consumption—not create obstacles to it. Banning the use of e-cigarettes where smoking is prohibited sends a message to smokers that they may as well continue to smoke, whereas allowing e-cigarette use indoors provides an incentive to switch to a far safer alternative.

III.  As a practical matter, a ban on e-cigarette use would be largely unenforceable.

As noted above, whereas cigarette smoke has an unmistakable odor and smoke lingers in the air, e-cigarette vapor is practically odorless and visible vapor begins to dissipate almost immediately.  When a person using an e-cigarette chooses to hold the vapor in for several seconds, there is typically no (or very little) visible vapor upon exhale.  Furthermore, unlike cigarettes, no evidence of a violation is left behind (i.e., a cigarette butt or a lingering smell).

IV.  Allowing e-cigarette use where smoking is prohibited will not pose any problems with enforcing existing smoking bans.

Forty-seven states do not ban e-cigarette use where smoking is prohibited, and yet there are no reports of authorities in these states having had problems with enforcement. Just as the innocuousness of e-cigarette vapor, as compared to cigarette smoke, makes a ban difficult to enforce, it makes it impossible to not recognize the difference.  Smokers who see an e-cigarette used indoors do not light up—they ask, “What is that?” and “Where can I get one?”

There are visible clues that are obvious to anyone tasked with enforcement, including how the devices are held, where they are placed after puffing, and the blue or other colored electronic lights on many e-cigarettes that contrast clearly with a glowing burning cigarette.  If the City Council feels there is a genuine issue of possible confusion, the more reasonable response would be to ban the use of e-cigarettes with orange or yellow glowing LED tips in areas where smoking is prohibited.

V.  Allowing e-cigarette use where smoking is prohibited will not "normalize" smoking.

E-cigarette use does not "normalize" smoking.  To the contrary, it sends a clear signal that smoking is becoming less-and-less the norm.  It normalizes an alternative that is magnitudes of order safer than smoking and which poses no measurable risk to bystanders.   The solution is not to treat e-cigarette use exactly like smoking, but, rather, to educate the public about the differences.


For the foregoing reasons, CASAA urges the New York City Council to reject the extension of New York City’s Smoke-Free Air Act to include e-cigarettes.  

Thank you for your consideration. 


Julie Woessner, Legislative Director
The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association
7481 Huntsman Blvd, #420
Springfield, VA 22153
(202) 241-9117

[1] CASAA is a non-profit 501(c)(4), all-volunteer organization with a grassroots' membership of thousands of individuals from all walks of life. We are a consumer-focused organization, not a trade association. We are dedicated to ensuring the availability of reduced harm alternatives to smoking and to providing smokers and non-smokers alike with honest information about those alternatives.

Since CASAA's founding in 2009, we have educated the public and increased awareness about the benefits of reduced harm alternatives to smoking, including e-cigarettes. We also encourage responsible legislative policy designed to improve public health by recognizing that smoke-free nicotine-containing products are inherently far less dangerous than smoking.

[2] Phillips CV, Rabiu D, Rodu B. Calculating the comparative mortality risk from smokeless tobacco versus smoking. Am J Epidemiol 2006;163:S189.

[3] Burstyn, I.  Peering through the mist:  What does the chemistry of contaminants in electronic cigarettes tell us about health risks?  Drexel University.  2013 http://publichealth.drexel.edu/~/media/files/publichealth/ms08.pdf

[4] Polosa R, Caponnetto P, Morjaria J B, Papale G, Campagna D, Russo C: Effect of an Electronic Nicotine Delivery Device (e-Cigarette) on Smoking Reduction and Cessation: A Prospective 6-Month Pilot Study. BMC Public Health 2011, 11:786. http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2458-11-786.pdf 

[5] Burstyn, I.  Peering through the mist:  What does the chemistry of contaminants in electronic cigarettes tell us about health risks?  Drexel University.  2013 http://publichealth.drexel.edu/~/media/files/publichealth/ms08.pdf

[7] Royal College of Physicians. Harm reduction in nicotine addiction: helping people who can’t quit. A report by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians. London: RCP, 2007.

[8] Rodu B. The scientific foundation for tobacco harm reduction, 2006-2011. Harm Reduct J. 2011 Jul 29;8:19. The scientific foundation for tobacco harm reduction, 2006-2011

Thursday, December 12, 2013

(UPDATED!) NYC CTA Indoor Use Ban Hearing 12-18-13

Call to Action! New York City E-Cigarette Usage Ban --

Proposed Int. 1210-A  Law 7248 

(Health Committee Vote Wednesday, 12/18/13

with a Vote by City Council Expected as Early as 12/19/13)

UPDATE 12/15/13: regarding upcoming Health Committee vote WEDNESDAY, 12/18/13
UPDATE 12/12/13: regarding upcoming Health Committee vote and contact lists.

[legislative tracking + full text]

If enacted, these ordinances would:
  • Include e-cigarettes in New York City's "Smoke-Free Air Act”
  • Ban e-cigarette use in all locations where smoking is prohibited in New York City, including bars, restaurants, private workplaces, outdoor dining areas and parks.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Councilman James F. Gennaro are both just a few weeks away from the end of their terms as NYC officials.  Bloomberg and company, having failed in their push to enact a de facto ban on flavored e-cigarette sales in the city, have decided to again bully ex-smokers in NYC by attempting to push through an ordinance that would ban the use of electronic cigarettes in all indoor and outdoor areas of the city where smoking is banned.

On Wednesday, December 4th, the New York City Council held a hearing on these ordinances, with approximately 50 harm reduction advocates attending and many speaking in opposition to the plan.  Following the hearing, two positive articles on e-cigarettes were published in the New York Times (“Two Cheers for E-Cigarettes,” “The Case for Tolerating E-Cigarettes”).  Additionally, on Monday, December 9th, a committee in the Chicago City Council declined to railroad through a ban similar to one proposed by the Bloomberg administration ("Surprise Opposition Derails Emauel's E-Cigarette Ban"). 

The NYC ordinance was originally set to be voted on by the Health Committee on Wednesday, December 11th.  However, we’ve learned that the vote has been delayed, perhaps until Wednesday, December 18th at 12:00 p.m.  (16th Floor Hearing Room at 250 Broadway).  The goal is to then have the full Council immediately vote on it on Thursday, December 19th at their meeting at 1:30 PM at City Hall (260 Broadway). 

Important Note for New York City Residents: Vapers and advocates cannot wait until the Health Committee acts on this ordinance to decide whether to contact other members of the NYC Council. It is imperative that NYC residents who respond to this Call to Action not just contact the full Council, but also the Council member who represents each individual person's district.  Click here to find out who represents you on the New York City Council.  We highly recommend calling their legislative office and respectfully making clear that you are in the legislator’s district and have a strong opinion about the e-cigarette ordinance. You can even ask for a meeting or return phone call. 

NYC and Nearby Residents: Please Contact All the Members of the New York City Council

1. You would like them to OPPOSE the proposed ordinance to falsely redefine "smoking" to include use of a smoke-free electronic cigarette.  

2. Tell your story on how switching to an e-cigarette has changed your life.

3. Explain how smoking bans are enacted to protect the public from the harm of secondhand smoke, but e-cigarettes have not been shown to cause harm to bystanders. In fact, all evidence to date shows that the low health risks associated with e-cigarettes is comparable to other smokeless nicotine products.

The low risks of e-cigarettes is supported by research done by Dr. Siegel of Boston University, Dr. Eissenberg of Virginia Commonwealth, Dr Maciej L Goniewicz of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Dr. Laugesen of Health New Zealand, Dr. Igor Burstyn of Drexel University, and by the fact that the FDA testing, in spite of its press statement, failed to find harmful levels of carcinogens or toxic levels of any chemical in the vapor.

comprehensive review by a Drexel University professor based on over 9,000 observations of e-cigarette liquid and vapor found "no apparent concern" for bystanders exposed to e-cigarette vapor, even under "worst case" assumptions about exposure.    

Additionally, a study by the Roswell Park Center that was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that the levels of chemicals and toxicants in the vapor produced by 12 different e-cigarettes 9-450x less than in cigarette smoke.  The authors noted that the trace levels of chemicals present were comparable to what is found in a FDA-approved nicotine inhaler.    

4. Detail how electronic cigarette use is easy to distinguish from actual smoking. Although some e-cigarettes resemble real cigarettes, many do not. It is easy to tell when someone lights a cigarette from the smell of smoke. E-cigarette vapor is practically odorless, and generally any detectable odor is not unpleasant and smells nothing like smoke. Additionally, e-cigarette users can decide whether to release any vapor ("discreet vaping").  With so little evidence of use, enforcing indoor use bans on electronic cigarettes would be nearly impossible.

5. Inform them that the ability to use electronic cigarettes in public spaces will actually improve public health by inspiring other smokers to switch. Surveys of thousands of users indicate that the majority of those who switch, completely replace tobacco cigarettes with the electronic cigarettes, reducing their health risks by 98-99%.

6. Tell them that by switching to a smokeless product, you have greatly reduced your health risks.

7. Direct them to the CASAA.org website, as well as the CASAA Research Library, for more information.

Please Contact the Members of the New York City Council Health Committee Below:

While e-mails are easier, phone calls will have a larger impact, even if you are simply leaving a message after hours.

Comma delimited email list:
chin@council.nyc.govrmendez@council.nyc.govgarodnick@council.nyc.ny.uslappin@council.nyc.gov,gbrewer@council.nyc.govrjackson@council.nyc.govmviverito@council.nyc.govyrodriguez@council.nyc.gov,aking@council.nyc.govjvacca@council.nyc.govjoel.rivera@council.nyc.govvgibson@council.nyc.gov,apalma@council.nyc.govdhalloran@council.nyc.govpkoo@council.nyc.govjferreras@council.nyc.gov,mweprin@council.nyc.govjgennaro@council.nyc.govjvanbramer@council.nyc.govcomrie@council.nyc.ny.us,ruben.wills@council.nyc.govkoslowitz@council.nyc.govecrowley@council.nyc.goveulrich@council.nyc.gov,slevin@council.nyc.govljames@council.nyc.govavann@council.nyc.govedilan@council.nyc.gov,sgonzalez@council.nyc.govlander@council.nyc.govmathieu.eugene@council.nyc.gov darlene.mealy@council.nyc.gov,vgentile@council.nyc.govdgreenfield@council.nyc.govlfidler@council.nyc.govdrecchia@council.nyc.gov,mnelson1@council.nyc.govdrose@council.nyc.govjoddo@council.nyc.govvignizio@council.nyc.gov

Margaret Chin (D) [District 1]

Rosie Mendez (D) [District 2]

Christine C. Quinn (D) [District 3]

Daniel R. Garodnick (D) [District 4]

Jessica S. Lappin (D) [District 5]

Gale A. Brewer (D) [District 6]

Robert Jackson (D) [District 7]

Melissa Mark-Viverito (D) [District 8]

Inez Dickens (D) [District 9]

Ydanis Rodriguez (D) [District 10]

Oliver Koppell (D) [District 11]

Andy King (D) [District 12]

James Vacca (D) [District 13]

Fernando Cabrera (D) [District 14]

Joel Rivera (D) [District 15]

Vanessa L. Gibson [District 16]

Maria del Carmen Arroyo (D) [District 17]


Annabel Palma (D) [District 18]

Daniel Halloran (R), (C), (I), (L) [District 19]

Peter Koo (D) [District 20]

Julissa Ferreras (D) [District 21]

Peter F. Vallone Jr. (D) [District 22]

Mark S. Weprin (D) [District 23]

James F. Gennaro (D) [District 24]

Daniel Dromm (D) [District 25]


Jimmy Van Bramer (D) [District 26]

Leroy Comrie (D) [District 27]

Ruben Wills (D) [District 28]

Karen Koslowitz (D) [District 29]

Elizabeth Crowley (D) [District 30]
212 788-7381

Donovan Richards Jr [District 31]

Eric Ulrich (R) [District 32]

Stephen Levin (D) [District 33]

Diana Reyna (D) [District 34]

Letitia James [District 35]


Albert Vann (D) [District 36]

Erik Martin Dilan (D) [District 37]

Sara M. González (D) [District 38]

Brad Landers (D) [District 39]

Mathieu Eugene (D) [District 40]

Darlene Mealy (D) [District 41]

Charles Barron (D) [District 42]

Vincent J. Gentile (D) [District 43]

David G. Greenfield (D) [District 44]

Jumaane D. Williams (D) [District 45]

Lew Fidler (D) [District 46]

Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. (D) [District 47]

Michael Nelson (D) [District 48]


Deborah Rose (D) [District 49]

James S. Oddo (R) [District 50]

Vincent Ignizio (R) [District 51]