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Customers puff on e-cigarettes at the Henley Vaporium in New York City December 18, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar Customers puff on e-cigarettes at the Henley Vaporium in New York City December 18, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar  

Smokers’ rights advocates challenge legality of NYC’s e-cigarette ban

A New York City law restricting electronic cigarettes is facing a legal challenge.

According to the law firm filing the case, the recent ban signed by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg violated the New York State Constitution’s and New York City Charter’s “One Subject Rule,” which restricts legislation topics to only one subject.

Brett Josphe, one of the attorney’s arguing the suit, told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “The single subject rule is designed to ensure clarity and transparency in legislation and to prevent conflating separate issues as part of social agenda, as the City Council did in this case.”

The city’s e-cigarette ban was initially passed as an amendment to the decades old City’s Smoke-Free Air Act (SFAA), which Josphe’s law firm argues was solely intended to protect the public from the adverse consequences of secondhand smoke exposure.

“Not a single justification for the e-cig ban has anything to do with smoking around others or protecting citizens or workers from exposure to secondhand smoke,” said the statement announcing the lawsuit.

Instead, “With Bloomberg’s urging, the Council’s justifications for the addition of e-cigs to the SFAA included that e-cigs have not been approved by the FDA and their use may increase the social acceptability of smoking,” the statement explained.

Audrey Silk, founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.) and one of the parties behind lawsuit, suggested that critics of e-cigarettes are trying to ban the device not out of concern for the public’s health, but because they want smoking to be frowned upon socially.

Silk said in a statement, “It has always been our position that the proponents’ ulterior motive for smoking bans was never about secondhand smoke protection except as a scare tactic to turn the mob against an unpopular minority and to control the smoker, not the smoke, by systematically eliminating opportunities to light up.  Protesting all along that they were up to no such thing, the inclusion of harmless vapor now proves it.”

Although there are serious questions about whether e-cigarettes have any harmful effects, the lawsuit filed by CLASH and activist Russ Wishtart only addresses the process that the Bloomberg administration used to pass the amendment.

The city could, therefore, pass additional legislation that regulates the use of the device.

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