Could New York’s Law Banning E-Cigarettes Cost Lives?

Could a bill passed by the City Council in December, and signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as one of his last official acts, cost New Yorker’s their lives? The city’s wide-stretching anti-smoking law also includes the use of relatively harmless e-cigarette vapor from anywhere cigarette smoking is banned. This ban includes not only bars and restaurants, but also parks and beaches. This ban makes it a lot harder for New Yorkers to quit smoking.

Similar bans are being considered in cities and states around the country. Santa Fe, N.M. already has a hearing on the matter scheduled for early this year.

If the government treats smoke-free e-cigarettes with the same restrictive laws as tobacco cigarettes, fewer people will be able to effectively quit smoking by switching to electronic cigarettes. Not only will e-cigarettes lose their helpful purpose of being a more effective and convenient alternative to traditional cigarettes, they will also be labeled with the incorrect message that they are just as dangerous. This implication will not only be directed at the person who is using the e-cig but also people who are standing near them.

These bans don’t make financial sense either. Electronic cigarettes are a product that has been created by the private sector that is achieving what several hundred million dollars in government spending, huge litigations, massive taxes, warning labels and punitive regulations haven’t been able to achieve in several decades, offer smokers a safer alternative and a better means to quit smoking.

The people who support the ban base their argument on false and unproven information. They claim that vaping “normalizes” smoking because people may think vaping is smoking, which is ridiculous.

Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association, in her supportive testimony of the New York City ban, said, “this mimicry of traditional cigarettes, if used indoors where smoking is banned, can easily lead to confusion and confrontation by New York business owners. The potential for this dynamic to weaken the city’s decade-long ban on smoking in workplaces is quite clear and is the greatest motivating factor to support this proposal.” However, after that comment, a spokesman for business owners denied there have been many such complaints.

Even though the vaping community is moving toward more elaborate designs and styles of “e-cigarette” and away from the initial style that replicated an actual tobacco cigarette, I’m sure most people can figure out that if someone is puffing away on something that is glowing blue at the tip, as in the case of “blu” e-cigarettes, they aren’t smoking a traditional cigarette.

Even if people still can’t tell the difference by site, there is the fact that e-cigarettes don’t smell and a non-smoker won’t gag on any plumes of smoke. Actually if you can’t tell the difference between the two, then you might just want to stay inside the rest of your life because the real world isn’t really for you.

At the same hearing, Spike Babian, co-owner of Vape New York, testified that “we don’t ban water because it looks like vodka.” And the New York City Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley suggested that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to smoking. But initial studies, as well as empirical evidence, show that e-cigarettes are a major gateway away from, not toward, smoking.

As cities and states around the country consider adding e-cigarettes to smoking bans, legislators need to keep in mind the law of unintended consequences. Any former smoker who now vapes will tell you, if you keep e-cigarettes out of the regulation and restrictions imposed on tobacco cigarettes, more people will switch to vaping and more people will live.

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