Wednesday, March 26, 2014

E-Cigs Banned in Chicago and L.A., Despite All Logic

Even as cigarettes continue to ravage Americans’ health, two more major cities have joined New York City in their ban on e-cigarettes in public places. Specifically, both Chicago and L.A., arguably the two other major metropolises of the United States, have enacted public e-cig bans similar to New York’s that are intended to “save” bystanders from the supposedly harmful effects of second-hand e-cig vapor, much as public smoking was banned to protect bystanders from the scientifically-proven-to-be-unhealthy effects of second-hand smoke.



In January, the Chicago City Council voted 45-5 in favor of regulating e-cigs similar to how tobacco cigarettes are restricted in Chicago: anywhere within 15 feet of a building entrance, along with indoor public spaces including restaurants and bars, is off-limits as far as smoking is concerned. The primary argument, of course, wasn’t really based in science; there is no proven negative health impact from e-cig vapor, so bystanders have nothing to fear. Instead, the reason for the ban was to dissuade others from picking up smoking in the first place – the notorious “that looks cool so I’ll do it too!” reason.

Of course, this amounts to a massive infringement on the rights of e-cig users for no reason other than the desire to prevent others from picking up a poor habit that is not, itself, the use of e-cigs! It simply makes no sense, but then, city councils aren’t obligated to make sense. Sadly, the banning of e-cigs from public places can only have the effect of dissuading current tobacco smokers from changing over to e-cigs, thereby preserving their health and lowering the cost of medical care for the city.

After all, one of the primary benefits of switching to e-cigs had, previously, been that you could use them just about anywhere. You didn’t have to stand out in the rain, wind, and snow (all of which are plentiful in Chicago!) shivering away while getting your fix. You could vape anywhere, anytime, and it didn’t bother anyone; in fact, the smell of the vapor is often quite pleasant and refreshing! Of course, now, that reason is gone in Chicago, which is unfortunate. Fewer people will be switching to vaping, which means fewer people will be able to save their own lives and improve the quality of those lives.

Los Angeles 

In March, the L.A. City council followed suit, voting to include e-cigarettes as one and the same as tobacco cigarettes. What this translates to in L.A. law is that e-cigarettes are banned in clubs, bars, on beaches, in parks, in most office buildings, in markets, in restaurants, and in outdoor dining areas in the city. Yet again, this ban on e-cigs makes it harder for current smokers to justify switching to e-cigs, which means that they are less likely to quit smoking; they will continue to suffer the same ill health effects as other smokers. It is truly tragic.

An exemption exists for vapor lounges and e-cigarette stores, but this move largely pushes e-cigarettes out of the public eye – an arena in which they were becoming increasingly more apparent and therefore popular, with more and more people switching to e-cigs. After all, if you were addicted to cigarettes and you knew all the ways you could save money and save your life with e-cigs, you would want to switch too. Some people, sadly, don’t know about everything e-cigs have to offer – and now, they never will, as they may never discover they exist, though they might have if they had simply seen someone using them one day.

E Cigarette Direct UK Vapers Study
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Truly, it is appalling how some cities are banning e-cigarettes based on hysteria, hearsay, and completely unscientific reasoning. Fear without any kind of logical reasoning behind it amounts to poor policy on the part of government, and that is certainly what we can see here with these most recent bans on e-cigs. Fortunately, considering the many benefits e-cigs bring to the population, from health to affordability, the march of the e-cig will move ever forward, with more and more people adopting them as a way to quit smoking or, at the very least, reduce dependence on nicotine and the poor health that accompanies regular tobacco use. At least there’s that!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Big Apple’s Big Ban

For one of his last acts as mayor of New York City, the most incredible and possibly important city in the world, Michael Bloomberg took a parting shot at electronic cigarettes, banning e-cigs everywhere that smoking was already banned, including e-cigarettes in the Smoke Free Air Act. For vapers living in the Big Apple, this is, of course, a disaster.

After all, there are a variety of reasons to take up vaping, including your health and the money you can save from no longer buying pack after pack of cigarettes (not to mention savings on medical bills!), but another great reason to vape is that you can do it absolutely anywhere. In restaurants, in your apartment, it doesn’t matter – or at least, it didn’t, not in New York City. Now, with vaping banned in every major public area, this reason for vaping no longer exists, driving vapers trying to improve their lives through e-cigarettes back out into the cold and rain and designated smoking areas with those poor, poor tobacco smokers.

Why A Ban? 

The battle over the ban has been hard fought. Certainly there were business interests at stake; vape distributors and retailers in New York City see a huge financial cost to this ban, while civil libertarians are concerned that government is overreaching into an area of living that they have no right to be involved in, as there is no scientific evidence that vaping harms users, and therefore no reason for the government to be involved unless proved otherwise.

Supporters of the ban generally point out that while there is no evidence that vaping harms the health of bystanders as per second-hand smoke, there is also no evidence that it doesn’t, but vaping ought not to be considered guilty before proven innocent. In fact, e-cigarettes continue to be tested and examined for any ill health effects, and no cause for concern has yet arisen. Indeed, while there are now many concrete studies on the positive impact of e-cigs, there is more than a little anecdotal evidence that doing so can help users quit smoking, which provides massive health benefits to the person quitting smoking as well as potential bystanders, along with the city that is saving on medical costs.

Health effects of second hand smoking.
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It is disturbing how swiftly and without solid reasoning the New York ban on e-cigs has come to pass, especially when e-cigs present such a huge opportunity for the improvement of New Yorkers’ health and quality of life. It would seem that some individuals feel that quitting smoking via patches, gum, or completely abstaining from nicotine, is the preferable way to quit, but as anyone who has attempted those routes can tell you, that is all incredibly difficult. Only vaping offers the social and physical elements of smoking while still providing decreasing amounts of nicotine over time. You aren’t just addicted to smoking, after all; you’re addicted to the act of smoking, and vaping helps to mitigate that.


Of course, the ban on e-cigarettes has had something of a perverse effect on vaping culture in the city as well, as often happens when government regulates things it ill(barely) understands. Rather than discouraging vapers from stopping their vaping – after all, to switch to smoking wouldn’t make it easier to smoke, it would simply mean many more negative health effects – the ban has driven vapers together to venues where they can safely vape and enjoy each others’ company undisturbed.

It is unfortunate that a burgeoning industry and way to finally start making serious progress on ending smoking has been curtailed by the scientifically unfounded fears of a few, but new changes in how the world works have always led some to feel afraid. In the end, this isn’t that different.

Vaping is the future for smoking: it is more affordable, less offensive (even pleasant!) to bystanders, and ultimately, offers little if any negative health impacts to users and bystanders. This is the direction smoking has to go if we’re to wean ourselves off the habit of smoking and improve the overall health of our population. It is unfortunate that New York City, that struggles with its population’s health to the point that large soda is banned, would take action against a great step in the right direction for New Yorkers’ health!