Monday, December 23, 2013

Electronic cigarette supporters can use New York City ban debate to get the word out

It was disappointing, but not surprising for electronic cigarette supporters, that the New York city council recently voted to ban e-cig use in public places.

As much as New York City and its people can be very blunt at times, their city government is out of touch with most of its people and reality on the e-cig ban. Electronic cigarette supporters in NYC fought the good fight against the ban, especially on social media channels. However, the odds were against them with a fight against an elite big government body like the New York city council and an accomplice media.

So rather than revisiting a battle already apparently lost, below some of the main arguments against e-cigs by New York politicians followed by some positive answers, messages and strategies to help defend against further and future bans and attacks.

First of all, the overall message should be that electronic cigarettes are providing a choice to help consumers avoid tobacco, odor and second-hand smoke while reducing nicotine levels. They should be fairly and reasonably regulated like other similar consumer products.  

The existence and appearance of electronic cigarettes sends a message that supports and condones tobacco smoking: The facts and common sense show about 20 percent of the population still smokes tobacco after nearly half a century and billions of tax dollars spent demonizing cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes clearly give those smokers the chance and a choice to avoid tobacco, reduce nicotine and quit smoking. It’s possible that some non-smokers will choose e-cigs, but this argument is nothing more than an emotional “smoke screen.”

Electronic cigarettes are not healthy: Most e-cig makers and supporters don’t hide the fact that nicotine vapor has some negative health effects. However, e-cigs can help avoid thousands of toxins and chemicals burned in traditional tobacco cigarettes. According to the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, e-cigs contain five basic ingredients, all of them approved by the FDA/EDP for human consumption and already in U.S. food supplies. At least 35 e-cig studies can be cited showing there are not any harmful levels to humans.

There is not enough research or regulation of electronic cigarettes: As noted above, there are studies and research on both sides when it comes to the health impact of e-cigs. However, until there is definitive evidence one way or the other, consumers and the free markets should be allowed to decide. Electronic cigarettes should really be regulated like other somewhat similar consumer products like energy drinks, coffee, or alcohol. For example, nicotine can be considered as both a stimulant and relaxant, and the federal Centers for Disease Control has said e-cigs are “less harmful” than smoking. Finally, research can often be contradictory like recent studies claiming that multivitamins provide no health benefits.

Second-hand smoke, sorry vapor, from electronic cigarettes is harmful: So far, there is really no evidence that second-hand e-cig vapor is harmful. Until credible studies or research prove otherwise, the lack of second-hand “smoke” is actually a major advantage of electronic cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes appeal to youth as a gateway to tobacco smoking: Sadly, banning e-cigs more likely heightens their appeal to youth as a means of rebelling making them seem more “cool.” It’s fine to support banning the sales and use of e-cigs to minors, but it make no sense to ban their overall use in public. At the same time, we don’t see any governments rushing to ban high caffeine energy drinks, which are certainly comparable to electronic cigarettes.

Odor, or lack of it, from electronic cigarettes: The minimal or almost non-existent odor from e-cigs is one of their biggest benefits. One of the biggest complaints from non-smokers and smokers about traditional cigarettes is virtually eliminated with e-cigs. 

Finally, I think one of the best arguments in favor of electronic cigarettes and vaping is having opponents see them up close and personal. I’ve found that some of the strongest supporters of cigarette smoking bans have no problem with e-cigs when they actually see how they work and product little or any odor and second-hand smoke.   

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