Restaurant Law Blog

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vaping Banned from NYC Restaurants

If you entered a restaurant in NYC prior to 2002, the hostess was quick to ask two questions: “How many?” and “Smoking or non-smoking?” After a major crackdown that banned tobacco in all public places including bars, restaurants, parks, sports venues and subway stations, one question was eliminated from the hostess’ standard repertoire and slowly but surely smoke cleared from all eateries throughout the city. Over the past few years, however, cigarette smoke has been replaced with the vapor of e-cigarettes.

Although e-cigarettes have been hailed as a safe alternative to the tobacco and tar found in traditional cigarettes, many opponents of “vaping” (the act of smoking an e-cigarette) fear the long-term health implications, arguing that these have yet to be studied. In response to these concerns, on his second to last day in office, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg extended the Smoke Free Air Act to include e-cigarettes, prohibiting the use of these battery powered devices in all public places, including restaurants and bars. This ban goes into effect later this week and violators may be subject to hefty fines.

As with the initial tobacco ban of 2002, the onus of compliance falls onto restaurant owners. In the wake of these changes in the law, it’s important that management take the time to speak with employees and educate them about the new regulations so they too can help with enforcement efforts and inform customers about the new statute. While your establishment may already have “no smoking” signs, you might also consider revising these signs to include a warning about e-cigarettes.

While restaurant owners were some of the most vocal opponents of the original tobacco ban, this recent addition to the tobacco ban hasn’t caused the same kind of outcry, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its challenges. In March, a smokers’ group, Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court citing that the law is unfair and does nothing to protect New Yorkers from second-hand smoke since e-cigarettes only emit water vapor.

If you own a restaurant in NYC, it’s important that you consult with a seasoned restaurant attorney to ensure ongoing compliance with all local regulations. If you fail to comply with the prohibition of e-cigarettes, the penalties can be severe with significant fines and even the suspension or revocation of your establishment’s permit after multiple violations. Attorney DiPasquale has advised countless restaurateurs throughout the five boroughs and can help to address any concerns you may have regarding the e-cigarette ban.

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