Though vaping has grown in popularity and millions of people around the world have abandoned harmful tobacco in favor of this safer alternative, the response from some quarters of society has been anything but approving. In the United States especially, the reaction from some agencies and officials has been almost hostile, despite the official “tobacco harm reduction” position that the government supposedly supports. Worse, some jurisdictions are actively promoting or enforcing vaping bans that would prevent people from using their electronic cigarettes in public areas.
Given scientific studies that suggest that vaping is as much as 95% safer than tobacco usage, and the fact that most governments at least pretend to care about the broader public health, it is clear that electronic cigarettes should not be banned in public unless and until there is clear evidence that vaping poses a harm to non-vapers. That was, after all, the primary rationale behind the ban on public smoking – that second-hand smoke was a danger to non-smokers’ health, and therefore their health interests superseded any right that smokers might have to engage in an otherwise lawful activity in public places like government buildings and similar arenas.
Apart from that 95% figure that is usually only referred to by vaping fans due to its inconvenience for opponents of e-cigarettes, there are many obvious reasons why vaping should not be confused with tobacco smoking. Studies that have tried to demonstrate the presence of toxic compounds in expelled vapor have been roundly criticized for errant methodologies. For example, one such study involved vaping done at temperatures far beyond those recommended by manufacturers or vaping experts.
Other researchers have focused on their own studies suggesting that so-called “passive vaping” occurs, as demonstrated by tests of household nicotine levels. The fact that nicotine is found in the air in those homes is used by those researchers to conclude that there may be a danger to non-vapers. Of course, that ignores the research that questions whether nicotine itself is actually a harmful substance, but those questions too are inconvenient.
For groups like the American Lung Association – eager to expand government control over people’s lives wherever and whenever possible, actual harm is less important than the perception that harm might somehow exist. That led the ALA to call on the U.S. government to ban electronic cigarette use in low-income housing units operated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). That call was made in spite of the fact that the ALA appears to recognize that vaping is much safer than smoking tobacco – which would appear to indicate significant cognitive dissonance within the group at an organizational level. After all, why else would a group ostensibly devoted to protecting human health want to discourage the use of a product that even they acknowledge to be a safer alternative to smoking?
On US News reported, one spokesperson for the American Lung Association even went so far as to adopt the Food and Drug Administration’s ludicrous fiction that equates vaping to tobacco. According to Erika Sward from the ALA, “E-cigarettes are a tobacco product and because they are unregulated and many of the chemicals and exposures are unknown we must err on the side of protecting public health.”The only problem with her statement, of course, is that nearly every word of it is incorrect on a fundamental level.
Take the very first few words, “e-cigarettes are a tobacco product” for example. That’s fundamentally wrong, unless you believe that something that contains no tobacco can magically be construed as a “tobacco product.” That is no more than a convenient fiction that the FDA and others in the administration have adopted as part of a scheme to bypass Congress and extend their regulatory jurisdiction to encompass a group of products that they clearly have no power over.
Electronic cigarettes are to tobacco what planes are to automobiles. The fact that planes and cars can both get you to your destination doesn’t mean that you’re flying while you’re behind the wheel driving down the interstate, or vice versa. And while tobacco and electronic cigarettes can both deliver nicotine, that does not make them comparable to one another in any other way. Put simply, electronic cigarettes use no tobacco. The vaping devices themselves emit no tobacco smoke. E-Cigarettes are not tobacco products except in the fevered minds of government officials and their allies who seek to expand their regulatory and taxation powers.
Of course, some might wonder why anyone would even bother to fight the notion of banning electronic cigarettes in public places. Why not just go along with the idea, rather than have a major debate about these public health issues? It’s simple: because these proposed bans would actually harm public health in ways that no one in government or the ALA seems to have considered.
If, as almost everyone now acknowledges, electronic cigarettes are far safer than tobacco usage, then the government’s own harm reduction stance should cause it to embrace vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking – and one that could save millions of lives. The British government has made such overtures in recent months and criticized those who would discourage smokers from quitting tobacco by insinuating that vaping is as dangerous as their current habit.
The fact is that advocating against such bans involves advocating for what is really in the public’s best interest: the promotion of any and all smoking cessation tools that can actually be proven to work. Vaping is one of the most effective smoking cessation options out there, as evidenced by the millions who have already used electronic cigarettes to successfully end their tobacco habit. If you want to save lives, then electronic cigarettes must not be banned in public.