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OpinionColumnistsRachel Figueroa-Levin

E-cigarettes stir up a cloud of debate

The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly to

The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly to include electronic cigarettes in the city's ban on smoking in bars, restaurants, parks and other public places. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Last week, the City Council debated whether to ban e-cigarette smoking in public places.

People who want to inhale nicotine-infused vapor at restaurants, for instance, are currently allowed to do so because it technically isn't smoking. My inner libertarian thinks that laws banning the indoor use of e-cigarettes are silly, especially because the data on the effects of secondhand e-smoke are inconclusive.

Still, sometimes I can't help but want to see vapor-happy restaurant patrons Tasered and deported to New Jersey. While the risk to public health appears to be minimal, indoor e-smoking can irritate the eyes of people nearby.

And some people within 10 feet of indoor e-smokers roll their eyes so hard that their ocular nerves could be severed.

How addicted are e-smokers to nicotine that they can't step outside for a few minutes to get a fix? Proponents often argue that e-cigarettes help them break their addiction to nicotine, but I've noticed that some e-smokers inhale more. Is it because they can't stop?

"Does it help people quit, or does it help people not quit?" NYC Health Commissioner Thomas Farley asked recently.

I once tried an e-cigarette. It had a low level of nicotine and was vanilla flavored. When I took a drag, a red light turned on at the end that simulated the burning of a real cigarette. Do e-cigarettes make the "vapers" look cool -- you know, like the iconic leather-jacket-wearing high school senior cutting class so he can smoke?

I have to admit that I've wondered whether indoor e-smokers would mind being confronted. In my mind, a person storms up to an e-smoker, demands he stops inhaling, and the e-smoker smugly replies that he isn't actually smoking. The person sulks off in defeat, and the e-smoker feels vindicated -- for the first time all week.

Small, incredibly easy victories are the best.

Sure there's poverty, homelessness, disease and genocide in the world, but none of that matters to a smug e-smoker who just stood up to someone bothered by nicotine-laced vapor.

An oppressed person of the world can rejoice at his triumph over injustice.

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