In a first step toward a wider ban on e-cigarettes, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy barred their use in county facilities Thursday.
“We have to protect kids from e-cigarettes and this is just the beginning,” he said.
He was joined in his announced by the Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition, which applauded the move as a way to discourage addiction in children.
“We know any products designed to deliver more than trace amounts of nicotine can lead to addiction,” said Tobacco-Free Coalition Director Judy Rightmyer. “E-cigarettes can serve as a gateway to youth to become addicted to nicotine and then graduate to regular cigarette use. We don’t need to introduce a new generation of smokers to tobacco-related diseases and a premature death.”
McCoy said e-cigarette usage is growing, which worries him.
“We are responsible to the people of the county and to protect their safety and welfare,” he said. “Albany County is taking the initiative now to ban e-cigarettes because it is the right thing to do. We are taking the lead on this to protect county employees and the public.”
It’s not yet clear whether the nicotine vapor from e-cigarettes is harmful, but the American Lung Association of the Northeast said it would be better to be safe than sorry.
President and CEO Jeff Seyler called the vapor “potentially unsafe secondhand emissions” and said he applauded McCoy for “putting public health first.”
The FDA does not regulate e-cigarettes, which are not subject to tobacco laws because they do not contain tobacco. That means e-cigarettes can be purchased by children, and can be used in many places where smoking has long been banned.
But not everyone is pleased by the ban.
Some local doctors say they have patients who successfully quit smoking by using e-cigarettes.
Audrey Silk, of New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, said government is over-reaching by banning e-cigarettes.
“It’s the government’s ‘role’ to protect us from ourselves? When did that happen?” she asked. “It’s a misperception of what they’re about. This is government controlling people’s lives.”
She added that anecdotal evidence suggests the e-cigarettes are a better smoke-cessation tool than nicotine patches and gum.
“Experience indicates it acts much better, it’s much more effective,” she said.