Let's Encourage The Use Of E-Cigarettes – The Chattanoogan

Both Bradley County and East Ridge Council are considering new ordinances to add a smoke-free product, electronic cigarettes, to public smoking bans. Rationales for regulatory actions vary. Often they revolve around misplaced fears that e-cigarettes will serve as a gateway to the use of conventional cigarettes by kids and non smokers, as well as misperceptions that e-cigarette vapor is as harmful as cigarettes.  

Both fears are unsupported by evidence. Regarding the “gateway” theory, a University of Oklahoma study found that only 43 of 1,300 college students (3.3 percent) reported that e-cigarettes were the first form of nicotine they’d tried with only one student later taking up regular cigarette smoking. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that e-cigarettes have nearly none of the harmful properties of combustible cigarettes, primarily because nothing is burned in “vaping.” As a result, users and bystanders are not exposed to the harmful levels of cancer-causing toxins and a multitude of chemicals that result from the combustion of tobacco. A study released by Drexel University’s School of Public Health this fall found no evidence that e-cigarettes expose users or bystanders to levels of contaminants that would warrant health concerns. 

The point of these devices is to help smokers quit their unhealthy habit. So shouldn’t we be encouraging the use of e-cigarettes?  

I urge local officials to resist the well-intentioned but scientifically unsupported effort to include e-cigarettes in smoking bans, which would constitute a giant step backward in the effort to defeat tobacco smoking. They are sending an unintended message to smoker that electronic cigarettes are as dangerous as traditional cigarettes with the result that many will simply continue to smoke their current toxic products.

If the goal is to minimize smoking related illnesses and diseases, then local policymakers should preserve the ability of smokers to seek safer nicotine delivery alternatives that minimize harm to themselves and others. 

In the debate over e-cigarettes, that goal has been forgotten by some policymakers. Instead, legislators in cities like San Francisco and New York City have seen fit to instead justify these laws by some variant of, “I don’t approve of smoking, this looks like smoking, so it must be banned even though it isn’t smoking.”  This is not how rational public policy is formed. . 

I believe most of the people expressing negative opinion about e-cigarettes don’t really have any deep knowledge about the products. If you’re expressing your opinion about e-cigarettes in public you should know what you’re talking about, because the things said by a public elected official influences a lot of people. 

E-cigarettes have the potential to save millions of lives, and those who would impede smokers’ access to them — or to truthful information about them — are, in fact, killing smokers.

Dimitris Agrafiotis
Executive Director Tennessee Smoke Free Association

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