With a public hearing scheduled tomorrow and vote expected later this month, the City Council’s Health Committee is proposing a ban on e-cigs in most indoor public spaces. E-cigarettes and vaporizers are the latest indulgence to be threatened by Bloomberg. But while the ban might stop New Yorkers from e-puffing in bars, clubs, and subway platforms, owners of several vaping lounges aren’t as threatened by it as you’d assume.
“We have plenty of room in our 2,700 square foot space if public usage is banned and we have a great backyard for the warm weather,” said Thalia Eisenberg, owner of Henley Vaporium (if the name sounds familiar it’s because Billy LeRoy is a fan of the Nolita store). “The only changes we will make if the new law passes is to work hard to continue to educate the public about the benefits of electronic cigarettes.”
The committee’s stance is that having everyone puffing away on battery-operated metal tubes loaded with nicotine sends the message to children that smoking is O.K. and could even make it look cool. But Eisenberg and others warn that keeping e-cigs off the radar limits people’s exposure to a valid and safe alternative to quitting smoking — which is just the sort of thing the Bloomberg administration has adamantly backed.
“This product actually aligns with the cities public health mission in that it pushes the ball forward from traditional cigarettes and in the long run it will also save the city millions in health care costs,” Eisenberg said.
A potential ban might actually boost traffic for Eisenberg’s space and others, but the owners are still united in opposing the ban and its assertion that e-cigs aren’t a safe method to quit smoking.
Kyle Cope, manager of the newly opened Beyond Vape, agreed with Eisenberg that legislation might bring more people into the store on St. Marks Place, but was concerned about lumping vaporizers in with traditional cigarettes. “It throws these products into the mix with tobacco products and they’re not,” he said.
As for the committee’s accusation that being able to vape in public might make smoking look cool to children, he replied. “I don’t take my vape out if I see small children, and never blow smoke near anyone,” he said (e-cigs give off vapor rather than tar and tobacco smoke. The effects of secondhand exposure are still uncertain). “I wouldn’t want to put children in the way of that, but to be perfectly honest, a lot of people are like, ‘What the hell are you walking around with?’ In terms of it looking cool. I thought they looked crazy at first — certainly not cool.”
Like Eisenberg and Cope, Ilona Orshansky, the owner of Williamsburg’s , is a former smoker that was able to quit thanks to using a personal vaporizer.
“I think this product can help many people who are still battling with analog cigarettes,” Orshansky said. “After making the switch I feel better, smell better, and have more taste when I eat food.”
But critics worry that non-smokers will become addicted to nicotine after experimenting with e-cigarettes, which come in a variety of flavors. In September, 40 Attorney Generals sent a letter calling on the FDA, which may extend its tobacco regulations to e-cigs, to clamp down on the “increasingly widespread, addictive product.”
But how much of a damper will that put on a product that’s growing in popularity? “Hundreds come in weekly to the vaporium to stop smoking and switch to electronic cigarettes,” said Eisenberg. “We had a customer the other day who was a 40-year smoker with cancer in remission that switched over a few months ago. “He said he has much more energy now and doesn’t cough or feel sick. For us, it could not be more rewarding.”