Council Restricts Polystyrene Plastic, Electronic Cigarettes

Staff Writer

As the City Council wrapped up its term for the year, it passed two pieces of landmark legislation meant to protect the health of New Yorkers and New York’s environment.

On Nov. 19, the Council voted to restrict the use of e-cigarettes and certain polystyrene items in the City. E-cigarettes will have the same limitations as regular tobacco products and polystyrene items that are used in takeout or coffee containers will be banned outright. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign both of these bills into law.

The e-cig restriction, which passed 42 to 8, would prevent people from using them in the same areas tobacco products are banned. The Council listed multiple reasons for why this law is needed.

At the moment, research from the World Health Organization on e-cigarettes is inconclusive as to the effects they have on both the person vaping (the slang term for smoking an e-cig) and those breathing in the vapor second-hand.
Additionally, the Council felt that allowing e-cigs in public spaces would normalize smoking again, a reversal of their goal to discourage smoking.

The ban would go into effect in four months, with businesses having an additional six months to put up “No Vaping” signs.

The bill was sponsored in part by Queens Councilmen Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton). Anti-smoking groups praised the legislation’s passage.

“The Queens Smoke-Free Partnership commends the NYC Council for taking action that prevents the normalization of smoking of any kind for our young people,” Yvette Buckner, borough manager of the Partnership, said.

While the e-cig restrictions are meant to help the well-being of all New Yorkers, the Council’s polystyrene ban will make sure the City itself remains healthy by limiting pollution from those products.

This restriction on certain polystyrene items will limit the sale and provision of single-service food items in packaging containing polystyrene foam.

The ban will be delayed for a year though, giving the industry a chance to prove that polystyrene can be recycled.
According to Gennaro, it costs the City $1.8 million a year to dispose of and will last for more than 500 years.
The legislation does include a hardship exemption for small businesses and non-profits.

Queens sponsors for the legislation were Councilmembers Dromm, Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), Gennaro, Koo, Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Richards, Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

“Eliminating polystyrene foam would increase the value of our city’s recyclables and remove thousands of pounds of non-biodegradable material not only from our landfills, but from our streets, waterways and neighborhood sidewalks,” Gennaro said in a statement.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125,, or @Joey788.