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Anti-Smoking Zealot Claims E-Cigarettes Are ‘Against Our Culture’

Anti-tobacco activist Dr. Peter Shields claims e-cigarettes glorify the act of smoking and are “against our culture.”

Shields, one of the key drivers in convincing Ohio State University to ban smoking on campus in 2014, made the comments in a Monday interview with student daily newspaper The Lantern.

“The idea was, let’s send a message to everybody that tobacco use is not okay and it should be denormalized,” says Shields.

With Ohio State’s tobacco-free policy approaching its two year anniversary in January, Shields believes e-cigarettes should fall under the same rules as normal tobacco, with vapers forced to go off campus to use their e-cigs.

“Electronic cigarettes are glorifying the smoking act,” Shields tells The Lantern. “It’s against our culture of what we’re trying to promote. If it turns out that there’s some benefit or lack of harm, then we’ll take it off the policy.”

But Ohio State is typical of a new wave of initiatives to crack down on smoking and e-cigarette use among young people. Berkeley, Calif., is contemplating raising the age of buying e-cigarettes along with regular cigarettes to 21, putting both products on par with alcohol.

On Monday, Cleveland City Council took the plunge and voted to hike the minimum age of tobacco and e-cigarette products to 21. It is also considering banning the sale of flavored tobacco.

While the majority of the e-cigarette industry is supportive of efforts to keep vaping products out of the hands of minors, there is some evidence to suggest that raising the age for the purchase of e-cigarettes could have unintended consequences.

A study by Abigail Friedman of the Yale School of Public Health published in the Journal of Health Economics finds smoking rates among 12-17 year olds actually rises in states that banned e-cigarette sales to minors.

“Such bans yield a statistically significant 0.9 percentage point increase in recent smoking in this age group, relative to states without such bans,” Friedman says. The study controlled for smoking rates within states and statewide cigarettes.

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