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.
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.
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!
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