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!

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