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New York's City Council voted today to include electronic cigarettes in its ban on smoking in indoor public spaces. The devices, which form a vapor instead of smoke, are becoming increasingly popular as a supposedly safer way to get a nicotine fix.

“Because many of the e-cigarettes are designed to look like cigarettes and be used just like them, they can lead to confusion or confrontation,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, emphasizing that she wanted to avoid regressing to a point where smoking in public is once again widely accepted.

The council voted 43-8 in favor of the measure, which now has to be approved by the mayor. And he almost definitely will approve it, because he is also the guy who tried to ban large sodas.

Richard Carmona, former U.S. Surgeon General—as well as, it should be noted, a board member of NJOY, which makes e-cigs—wrote a letter before the vote advocating for e-cigs to not be included. "I'm extremely concerned that a well-intentioned but scientifically unsupported effort like the current proposal to include electronic cigarettes in New York's current smoking ban, could constitute a giant step backward in the effort to defeat tobacco smoking," he argued.

Indeed, the health effects of e-cigs are still not clearly defined, but they are rising in popularity, expected to exceed $1.7 billion in sales this year. Their use is also on the rise among minors.

Still, the council passed the measure, despite the powerful imagery of a protest on December 4 in which 200 protesters vaped indoors during a debate on the device's merits.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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