The city banned the smoking of electronic cigarettes in public late last year, and now, a smokers’ rights group is suing to have the legislation overturned. The lawsuit’s argument hinges on semantics. As The Verge points out, New York’s constitution requires that “laws must address only one subject, and that subject must be reflected in the title,” and the vaping ban was introduced as an amendment to the city’s Smoke-Free Act. The problem? E-cigarettes produce vapor, not smoke.
Audrey Silk, founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (CLASH), the group filing the lawsuit, makes no bones in her argument. “We’re fighting a cult, and it’s the same cult,” she says. “The same enemies that came after smoking are coming after the electronic cigarettes. It’s an ideology to them, and vaping is an extension to ‘renormalize regular cigarettes.”
Russ Wishtart, a vaping activist who’s also involved in the lawsuit, argues that tacking the public vaping ban onto existing legislation made it easier for councilmembers to vote it in. “They could have said, ‘Let’s make a bill called the Vape-Free Air Act,’” he says. “They chose to put it under the cover of a smoking ban that has been around for a long time because it makes it much more palatable for a legislator to vote for it.”
A win for CLASH wouldn’t be the first time the group changed tobacco laws in New York. Last year, a CLASH lawsuit lead a judge to overturn a state law banning smoking in public parks.
(Photo: @Brad Bethell)