New York's City Council has approved extending the city's strict smoking ban to include electronic cigarettes, which emit a vapor.
The measure was pushed by outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and backed by public health advocates in the city. It comes just weeks after New York became the first major city to raise the age for buying tobacco to 21.
Earlier this month, New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said that "more research is needed on electronic cigarettes," but that "waiting to act could jeopardize the progress we have made over the last few years."
Reuters describes e-cigarettes as "slim, reusable metal tubes that contain nicotine-laced liquid in a variety of exotic flavors such as bubble gum and bacon."
Since 2002, New York has had a ban in place on smoking in bars, restaurants, parks, beaches and plazas.
Last month, The New York Times reported:
"Councilman James Gennaro, one of the lead sponsors of the proposal to ban e-cigarettes in public places, and the commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, said that a loophole in current law allowing for electronic cigarettes was sowing confusion.
"People are lighting up electronic cigarettes in restaurants, creating conflict with other patrons and waiters who have to mediate, they said. Mr. Gennaro said children who could not differentiate between regular and electronic smoking were getting the message that smoking is socially acceptable.
" 'We see these cigarettes are really starting to proliferate, and it's unacceptable,' Mr. Gennaro said on Wednesday. 'I get reports of people smoking cigarettes in public libraries. Certainly, they're becoming more common in restaurants and bars.'
"But the makers of electronic cigarettes say that they are safe because they do not burn tar or tobacco, and they signaled their readiness on Wednesday to fight the proposed ban vigorously. They say the e-cigarettes are a good alternative to regular smoking for people who cannot quit."