04.22.2014 0

E-Cigarettes and second hand smoke: How the anti-tobacco lobby gets it wrong

E-cigBy Rick Manning

E-cigarettes have become a source of consternation for anti-smoking lawmakers who quiver at the very thought of someone lighting up a tobacco product.  This knee-jerk reaction to the dramatic increase in the use of e-cigarettes in public is manifesting itself in places like Los Angeles opting to treating e-cigarettes as if they were tobacco.

The fear of second hand smoke amongst those who have waged a legislative war on tobacco is one of the guiding principles behind these governmental prohibitions with the City of Los Angeles even going so far as to prohibit using e-cigarettes in outdoor public places and parks.

But what is the truth about the vapor emitted from using e-cigarettes?

In order to understand this issue, one needs to understand that e-cigarettes do not involve lighting a paper wrapped tobacco product and pulling the smoke through into your lungs, as is the case with actual cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes on the other hand are not lit, and are essentially little more than a plastic tube which turns nicotine into a flavored vapor that can be consumed by a user.  The vapor does not contain any of the characteristics of a burning cigarette.  Whereas a cigarette left burning in an ash tray produces a haze that lingers throughout a room or building, the vapor from the e-cigarette doesn’t have the same effect, as it doesn’t emit vapor unless it is being used by a consumer.

When being used, the e-cigarette vapor is only emitted into the atmosphere when the consumer exhales.  The e-cigarette vapor itself has been found to be primarily comprised of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, water and flavors.  This is an important distinction between the vapor exhaled by an e-cigarette user and a tobacco smoker.

An internationally peer reviewed study on e-cigarette vapor emissions published in the British Medical Journal’s “Tobacco Control” publication found that none of the estimated 10,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke, including more than 40 known carcinogens, have been shown to be present at greater than trace levels in e-cigarette vapor.

This means that there are no rational grounds for treating e-cigarette users similarly to cigarette smokers due to second hand smoke fears.   Yet, rationality plays little role with anti-tobacco politicians who insist on placing e-cigarette use in the same category as smoking, leading to some jurisdictions applying cigarette smoking bans from restaurants, office buildings and publicly controlled parks to e-cigarette users.

In spite of evidence to the contrary, ignorance amongst some politicians continues to rein as those who attack e-cigarettes in their war on tobacco are limiting the use of devices that help many smokers lessen or eliminate their tobacco dependency.

The irony that anti-smoking politicians may actually be doing harm to an effective smoking cessation tool cannot be lost on any neutral observer.

Yet, that is exactly what is occurring in many one ideology controlled local Councils where common sense is replaced with a ready, fire, aim mentality that not only misses the mark, but may have the perverse effect of prolonging tobacco use amongst those who they are spending tens of millions of dollars trying to convince to quit.

Rick Manning is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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