Home » Welcome to WSAC » Myths About E-cigarette Use In Public

Myths About E-cigarette Use In Public

Man VapingElectronic cigarette use is easy to distinguish from actual smoking. Although some e-cigarettes resemble real cigarettes, many do not. It is easy to tell when someone lights a cigarette from the smell of smoke. E-cigarette vapor is practically odorless, and generally any detectable odor is not unpleasant and smells nothing like smoke. Additionally, e-cigarette users can decide whether to release any vapor (“discreet vaping”). With so little evidence of use, enforcing use bans on electronic cigarettes would be nearly impossible. Cities with smoking bans have had little to no issue with e-cigarette use in public space. E-cigarette consumers are overwhelmingly considerate to the feelings of bystanders. Businesses that do not wish to allow e-cigarettes in their establishments simply ask patrons not to use them.

E-cigarette use does not promote the smoking of traditional cigarettes, nor does it threaten the gains of tobacco control over the past few decades. In fact, by normalizing e-cigarette use over traditional smoking, the efforts of tobacco control are being supported. If anything, e-cigarette use de-normalizes conventional smoking by setting the example of smokers choosing a far less harmful alternative to traditional smoking. The CDC surveys clearly show that there has been no “gateway effect” causing non-smokers to start smoking. As e-cigarettes have become more popular, all available evidence is showing that more and more smokers are quitting traditional cigarettes, including youth smokers.

Studies show that the children of smokers have a significantly higher risk of smoking initiation and the longer their parents smoke, the higher that risk. On the other hand, children of parents who had quit smoking were no more likely to smoke than children of parents who had never smoked. Children of non-smokers are more than 3X less likely to smoke, regardless of their exposure to smoking behaviors seen in public, on television or in advertising. Therefore, indoor e-cigarette use bans that purport to protect the low-risk children of non-smoking parents from seeing smoking behaviors completely overlook the unintended consequences of the extremely high risks from continued exposure to smoking behaviors by the children of smokers (who may have otherwise quit if e-cigarettes had not been prohibited in public spaces.)

To err on the side of caution, one must also look for unintended consequences. Are you being cautious of the right thing? Do the benefits of a law outweigh the risks?PSA_Bright_ecig
Smoking bans protect bystanders from second-hand smoke, which has been established as being a health risk, but one far lower than actually smoking. E-cigarettes reduce the risk of smoking to far lower than even second-hand smoke, so the health risks of second-hand vapor would logically be hundreds of times lower than even second-hand smoke. The only benefit of including e-cigarettes in smoking bans is protecting bystanders from infinitesimal levels of just a tiny fraction of the chemicals found in second-hand smoke.

On the other hand, there is a unique phenomenon observed and documented with e-cigarette consumers called “accidental quitting.” Smokers purchase an e-cigarette to use where they cannot smoke or because they are less expensive and find, over time, that they prefer the e-cigarette to their conventional cigarettes. They move from dual use (using both the e-cigarette and conventional cigarettes) to using just the e-cigarette alone. This can happen over several months or in just a few days.

Put simply, laws that result in just one smoker still smoking because an important incentive has been compromised causes far greater harm than hundreds of bystanders exposed to vapor in public spaces.

Often, when confronted with opposition by e-cigarette advocates, lawmakers assert that the intent is not to ban e-cigarettes altogether. They try to assure their constituents that they are not banning the sale of e-cigarettes to adult smokers and the devices can still be used in where smoking is allowed.

However, this misses the point completely. E-cigarette advocates aren’t there to ensure they can still use their products in a store, office building, restaurant or bar. Experienced e-cigarette consumers know that enforcement of the ban is nearly impossible. As explained earlier, the vapor leaves no tell-tale signs. Additionally, if the vapor is held in the lungs for just a short time, it’s completely invisible when exhaled.

The reason advocates are standing before you and telling their stories about how e-cigarettes have changed their lives is not because they are fighting for themselves. They are fighting for all of the smokers who haven’t yet quit. They want you to know how banning e-cigarette use will deny other smokers of their success story. They are fighting to keep every incentive possible available to encourage smokers to switch. They want you to understand how treating e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes will just keep smokers smoking and even possibly push those dual users completely back to smoking by removing their only incentive to quit.

Smoking bans were not intended for public “comfort.” Smoking bans were intended to protect the public from second-hand smoke, the dangers of which were ostensibly science-based. The science on e-cigarettes overwhelmingly shows e-cigarettes have miniscule risks to bystanders, if any. The comfort of patrons and employees of privately-owned businesses is the responsibility of the owners of that business. If an employer or owner finds that the vapor from e-cigarette consumers is a distraction or discomfort, the decision to prohibit use on their property should be theirs alone. Contrarily, if the owner of a bar, tobacco store or e-cigarette store decides he wishes to cater to e-cigarette consumers that should be his prerogative.

It should be noted that adult e-cigarette consumers expect to be able to try flavors before purchasing. Prohibiting indoor use would force customers outside to sample vapor products. An additional consideration should be made for businesses that cater to adult smokers. One unintended consequence of smoking bans has been the increase in litter and late-night noise outside of such establishments. Smokers who have switched to e-cigarettes currently remain inside, reducing the noise.

Elderly wheelchair smoking outsideOne final unintended consequence to consider. Many smoking bans may now or in the future include residences, such as nursing homes, assisted living apartments, multi-unit dwellings and government housing. Such bans are based on complaints that smoke residue not only ruins the units, but that smoke travels through walls and vents into other units, which may pose a health risk. Vapor would be included in such bans although it does not behave in the same manner. Again, this creates a disincentive for elderly and handicapped smokers to switch. Instead, they will continue to go out into the cold, often at night and in high-risk neighborhoods. Some may be forced to walk far from the building, because they are required to leave the property. Additionally, some municipalities are starting to prohibit smoking in outdoor spaces, such as beaches and parks, where e-cigarette vapor wouldn’t be noticeable in any way. It makes no sense to apply these same rules to low-risk vapor products.

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