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NY Senate holds hearing on e-cigarette rules

ALBANY -- Unless we can ensure their safety, e-cigarette use and exposure should be limited, said Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, the President of the NYS Association of County Health Officials.

That was the message that several witnesses gave lawmakers at a New York State Senate Standing Committee on Health Public Hearing on Monday. The hearing was on e-cigarettes and e-liquids. Public health officials and groups like the American Cancer Society voiced  support for legislation regulating the devices, including one that would that would include e-cigarettes in the Clean Indoor Air Act. That would ban their use in public places, like restaurants.

Some of the witnesses voiced concern over vapor that is emitted, saying not enough is known about it yet.

We want to know what is that, what chemicals are coming out of e-cigarettes into the general air that everyone else has to breathe, said Dr. Eisenstein.

Some of the witnesses were concerned that e-cigarettes will be a gateway to cigarettes. And some brought up advertising they feel is aimed at teens and young adults.

Nicotine devices will re-glamorize the act of smoking. This is a battle fought by public health for a long time, said Dr. Harlan Juster, as he discussed his concerns over what impacts the devices could have on the state. Dr. Juster is the Director of Bureau of Tobacco Control with the NYS Department of Health.

The NY Association of Convenience Stores and Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association spoke out against the proposed legislation as they testified during the hearing. They called it intrusive and asked lawmakers to wait on what the FDA has to say before making any decisions.

Theres no reason to prejudge the outcome of the research and to jump to the conclusion that e-cigarette are the equivalent public health risk to cigarette smoke, said Scott Wexler, the Executive Director of the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association.

We don't make health claims, but what we do say is we have a great alternative to combustible tobacco, said Cheryl Richter, the co-owner of CherryVape, an evapor company.

Richter says there is research out there, refuting negative claims, that is being overlooked. She said she is a former smoker herself and that the device has offered her an alternative. As a business owner, she thinks banning-cigarettes and similar devices from public spaces is unfair.

These bills that have been introduced will affect our business the most. These bills are targeted against us and we don't have a voice, she said.

Liquid nicotine, which is used to refill the devices, was also brought up in the hearing. A toxicologist with the Upstate NY Poison Center said the center has seen an increase in calls for children ingesting the liquid. He testified that it is dangerous for children. There is legislation proposed to ban its sale in New York.

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