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E-cigarettes may soon be included in ban on indoor public smoking

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: E-cigarettes may soon be included in ban on indoor public smoking
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- It's not uncommon to find people using electronic cigarettes inside public buildings.

Time Warner Cable News cameras spotted several people "vaping" inside the Legislation Office Building in downtown Albany Monday.

According to the law, it's legal.

Spike Babaian was one of several vaping. She owns an e-cigarette store in New York City.

Five years ago she made the switch from traditional cigarettes to e-cigs.

"I thought it might be a better option," Babaian said. "I was a two-pack a day smoker. I tried it and I quit smoking within three weeks."

Years after e-cigs were introduced, many questions still loom on how safe they really are.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't know the potential health risks or how much nicotine or other harmful chemicals are being inhaled.

Monday, the New York state Senate Health Committee held a public hearing on e-cigarettes.

The committee is considering banning e-cigs from being used inside public places and creating more regulations for retailers who sell them.

"Overall, e-cigarettes appear to be less harmful in terms of the numbers and amount of toxic chemicals, they're not safe," testified Dr. Andrew Hyland, of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.

Vaping advocates were also at the hearing, but said they were not invited to speak. They said they worry state lawmakers are rushing to get bills passed before knowing the facts.

"These bills, most of them would shut down every e-cigarette store in New York. Not just New York City but New York State," Babaian said.

New York City already has regulations in place which keep people from using the devices indoors. Babaian said the law has forced her to lose business.

E-cig store owners fear it's too early for lawmakers to decide one way or another, but others disagree.

"If the evidence were clear than we would agree with you that you shouldn't wait for the FDA. But the FDA has said themselves that the evidence isn't clear and they want to receive the information," said Scott Wexler of Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association.

Legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate soon.

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