It was bound to come down to a judge’s ruling eventually, but we didn’t know it would happen this soon. In New York, a judge just ruled that vaping is not smoking and the two words cannot be used interchangeably. New York currently bans smoking in most public areas, but according to the judge that doesn’t mean vaping is automatically banned as well.
After a vaper was cited for using his device on a subway platform, he challenged the issue in court. In “People vs. Thomas”, the judge said that New York law defines smoking as “the burning of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco”. However, the court said that this definition excluded vapor devices.
“An electronic cigarette neither burns nor contains tobacco,” the court noted. “Instead, the use of such a device, which is commonly referred to as ‘vaping,’ involves the inhalation of vaporized e-cigarette liquid consisting of water, nicotine, a base of propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin and occasionally, flavoring.”
During the case, the state argued that the ban on vaping should be understood and there was no need for a specific prohibition on vapor devices because “the courts of New York have yet to make a determination as to whether electronic cigarettes are to be viewed any differently under these sections than tobacco cigarettes.”
However, the judge ruled that this argument was invalid. After all, vapor devices just do not match up with the state’s current definition of “smoking” and cannot be treated as tobacco products if they contain no tobacco.
In New York City, leaders have specifically included bans on vaping under the Smoke Free Air Act. However, statewide laws are yet to follow suit. Last summer, the state considered a bill to add restrictions against using vapor devices in public places, but the bill died in the Senate.
Now that a judge has formally ruled that vaping does not equate to smoking, we will likely see a statewide scramble to redefine smoking or tack on additional language to smoking prohibitions to insure that vaping is also restricted. For now, we can all pause and celebrate this small victory from one New York judge that fortunately had enough common sense to stop this ridiculous charge in its tracks.