Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino signed into law this week a measure that will further restrict the use of e-cigarettes in the county. The law will ban the use of e-cigarettes in places that already forbid smoking, including all workplaces, restaurants, and bars. Basically, the county will treat e-cigarettes almost exactly the same as traditional ones.
E-cigarettes—battery-operated nicotine vaporizers that simulate the sensation of smoking without creating carcinogenic smoke—are a relatively new trend and their popularity has spread quickly since their induction into the market in the early 2000s. In the past year, there has been a considerable increase in the sale of e-cigarettes nationally and use among high school students nationally has tripled, according to a 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control. In a statement released this week, Michael Davoli, New York metro government relations director of ACS CAN, spoke strongly in favor of the new law.
“It will help ensure that enforcement of existing smoke-free laws is not compromised, and that the public health benefits of smoke-free laws are not undermined,” Davoli said.
Debates regarding e-cigarettes are nothing new; supporters say vaporizers make a good substitute for traditional cigarettes to help those addicted to tobacco avoid the health risks associated with inhaling smoke. But, though e-cigarettes avoid certain carcinogens, they aren’t totally safe, either. Users still get addicted to the nicotine in e-cigarettes, and a report released in January found that some vaporized nicotine contained cancer-causing formaldehyde at levels up to 15 times greater than in traditional cigarettes.
Also controversial is the fact that e-cigarettes can be sold in flavors like bubble gum or grape, which some see as a manipulative technique to target younger customers (e-cigarettes can be bought starting at age 18, just like other tobacco products).
Despite any ongoing debates, ACS CAN said it stands behind Astorino’s signature on the law, and hopes it will help to improve the health of the entire county. “This new law will prevent people in Westchester County from being exposed to the unknown dangers of e-cigarettes and to prevent the addiction of more people, including our teenagers, to deadly nicotine and exposure to known carcinogens.”
According to a 2007-2011 cancer report from the Westchester County Department of Health, average annual deaths for women in the county with lung and bronchus cancer is 892, and for men, the number is 822. Interestingly enough, the report also described how the trend in lung and bronchus cancer has a slight downwards trajectory for males, while the female trend is upwards.