Enforcement questions remain after NYC’s e-cig ban goes into effect

New York City's e-cig ban goes into effect April 29, but some businesses and enthusiasts aren't entirely sure how the law will be enforced. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
New York City’s e-cig ban goes into effect April 29, but some businesses and enthusiasts aren’t entirely sure how the law will be enforced.
Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It might be a drag for some, but as of Tuesday anyone caught smoking an e-cigarette or a vaporizer pen in bars, restaurants, parks and beaches across New York City faces the same punishment that tobaccos smokers have faced since 2002.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg capped off his administration by signing into law an amendment to the city’s existing ban on cigarettes, extending it to cover vapor-based devices.

Back in 2003, when the original smoking ban came into effect, Bloomberg was hailed by public health advocates and admonished by those who saw it as government overreach.

Those same kudos and complaints resurfaced 10 years later when the city council passed an amendment to include vapor devices — which contain no tobacco but mostly use nicotine-based liquids.

Ilona Orshansky was at City Hall last fall when lawmakers debated the bill. One month earlier Orshansky, a California native, opened up Brooklyn’s first vape shop near the Williamsburg waterfront, aptly named Brooklyn Vaper.

“It’s going to be impossible to enforce this,” she said of the modified law. “As soon as you light up a cigarette in a space, everybody can tell. You vape — two, three seconds — that whole scent goes away.”

Enforcement of the city’s anti-smoking regulations already falls mostly on the health department, which said that compliance with the Smoke Free Air Act “has been over 98 percent since its enactment” 10 years ago.

“We expect that this amendment will also be easy for businesses and property owners to understand, comply with and enforce in their settings,” a spokesperson with the agency wrote.

The department added that citations will not be issued until Aug. 1, and signage will not be required to be posted until Oct. 26.

As with regular tobacco products, anyone caught breaking the law can be fined up to $100 per offense. A business found to be breaking the law can be fined between $200 and $400 for a first offense.

Last month, a smoker’s advocacy group, Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court challenging the law’s expansion to include vapor devices.

However, Orshansky’s business will largely be immune from the city’s new requirements. Her shop makes more than 50 percent of its earnings through vaping products, which means her customers can vape inside the store.

“People can vape in here as much as they want,” she explained. “But as soon as they walk out this door, all of a sudden it’s illegal for them to vape in the hall.”

She remembered hearing then City Council Speaker Christine Quinn making the case that vaping in public spaces would “renormalize” smoking “because many of the e-cigarettes are designed to look like cigarettes.”

Except, Orshansky said, most personal vaporizers don’t look like cigarettes.

The e-cigarettes commonly found in bodegas and minimarts are largely produced by companies purchased by tobacco companies such as Altria — formerly Philip Morris. They are mostly disposable and use proprietary flavor cartridges.

By contrast, the devices that Orshansky sells are customizable and can use any number of e-juices stocked at the store, including flavors such as cappuccino, cotton candy and any number of fruity options.

Critics often point to the variety of flavors — which many allege are targeted to kids — as reason to monitor the liquids used in vapor devices, most of which still include nicotine. The Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it would seek to regulate how the liquids are manufactured and sold.

Orshansky’s shelves are stocked with vials of different flavors. On Friday, one regular customer, Matt, was in the store to replace a part for his vaporizer and stock up on his liquid of choice: milk and honey.

The ban won’t affect Matt for very long — he said he’s moving to different city soon. He switched to the device two months before, having smoked multiple packs a day before his boss turned him on to a vaporizer.

Matt chuckled at the suggestion that the different varieties of liquids are only targeted to children.

“Because adults don’t like cake?” he asked.

Vape Shops Around the Five Boroughs

This is a corrected story. An earlier version of the story incorrectly identified broke down the fine amounts for those caught violating the city’s smoking ban. We regret the error.

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

Movies

Shia LaBeouf disorderly conduct case pushed to September

A judge on Thursday adjourned until September the disorderly conduct and harassment case against actor Shia LaBeouf, who was charged with disturbing a Broadway theater…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.