Arrested for Vaping?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on October 27, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There aren't many places left for the cigarette smokers of the world. Pushed out of offices, airplanes, bars, and even some sidewalks, the choice is either to quit or to smoke at home. Or, find something that isn't "smoking." Many new and long-time smokers are turning to vaping instead, in the hopes of circumventing anti-cigarette ordinances.

The question then becomes, what's the difference between smoking and vaping, and can you get in trouble for vaping the same way you can get in trouble for smoking cigarettes?

Burning vs. Vaping

A recent New York case seemed to go in vapers' favor earlier this year when a New York judge ruled that vaping and puffing on e-cigarettes does not constitute "smoking" under the state's anti-smoking law:

"Smoking" means the burning of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco. An electronic cigarette neither burns nor contains tobacco. Instead, the use of such a device, which is commonly referred to as "'vaping,' involves "the inhalation of vapourized e-cigarette liquid consisting of water, nicotine, a base of propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin and occasionally, flavouring." This does not fit within the definition of "smoking" under the law.

It's lucky for this defendant that he was charged under the state's anti-smoking statute, rather than New York City's Smoke Free Air Act, which also bans e-cigarettes. When it comes to vaping and e-cigarette legislation, cities are generally ahead of states, which have themselves been ahead of federal regulations on vaping.

Dora Explores Vaping in the Girls' Room

Another place where anti-vaping rules may differ is in schools. Fatima Ptacek, the 15-year-old voice of the eponymous lead character in the Dora the Explorer cartoon, was suspended for three days from her NYC private school after being caught vaping in the girls' bathroom. Ptacek was caught with another girl, puffing caramel-flavored water from a vaporizer that she claims contained no tobacco or drugs. "At first, we didn't know how to turn it on, but then we figured it out," she said. "We both sucked in from the vaporizer, but I was a little scared, so I didn't inhale into my lungs but kept it in my mouth."

Regardless of the general differences between smoking and vaping, or what was in this particular vaporizer, schools are generally allowed to set their own regulations when it comes to on-campus behavior, especially private schools. The other girl's parents are suing the school, but because they believe their daughter was unfairly expelled as the "scapegoat" in the incident and Ptacek received special treatment based on her celebrity status.

Laws and regulations on vaping can vary from city to city, state to state, and school to school. So before your puff your way into an arrest, check with a local criminal defense attorney about smoking and vaping laws in your area.

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