NYC’s proposed e-cigarette ban: Bad for the gay community, bad for everyone

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At GOProud, we believe very strongly in promoting the health and welfare of the LGBT community. Although the general focus of our organization has more to do with politics than science, it is not hard for us to understand how vital the health of LGBT citizens is to their ability to be a happy, prosperous, and productive community. As an organization we strive to encourage, in any way possible, its vitality and sustainability.

Last week, the New York City Council proposed a ban on vapor cigarettes (e-cigarettes) that would not only limit personal freedom, but ultimately have a negative impact on the overall health of the gay community.

According to the American Lung Association, gay men are two and a half times more likely to smoke tobacco then heterosexual men, lesbians are twice as likely when compared to straight women, and bisexuals (men and women) have the highest risk of all. Without question, the prevalence of tobacco use among LGBT citizens substantially increases their health risks. So, naturally, we should want to encourage more people to transition to a healthier product.

Every study done on the e-cigarette has found that the risks are substantially reduced when an individual switches from a tobacco product to an e-cigarette. The e-cigarette also poses no risk to bystanders because it does not emit smoke, only water vapor. A Drexel University School of Public Health study found that e-cigarettes have 1 percent of the risk of a lighted tobacco cigarette. It’s a laughable fact, but e-cigarettes have virtually the same emissions as a pot of boiling water.

Many people have used the e-cigarette to cut down or quit smoking altogether. According to a study done by the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, 22 percent of people who switched to the e-cigarette stopped smoking after one month, and 46 percent quit smoking after one year. How could the City Council ignore these figures?

The New York City Council argues that an e-cigarette ban is necessary to maintain standards set by the Smoke-Free Air Act, which prohibits smoking tobacco in virtually all indoor venues. The original purpose of the prohibition, as it was passed in 2002, was to “protect all New Yorkers from secondhand smoke and tobacco marketing, and discourage youth from ever starting the deadly habit,” according to The NYC Coalition for a Smoke Free City. What the Council and the Coalition do not take into account is that many NYC residents who use the smokeless e-cigarette are now forced outside among traditional tobacco smokers, where secondhand smoke actually does exist. Essentially, this bill subjects non-smoking New Yorkers to the very atmosphere the Smoke-Free Air Act was designed to eliminate. Adding insult to injury, the council suggests that e-cigarette users are now a bad public influence because they made a positive health decision.

The simple fact is- e-cigarettes are not just a healthier alternative to traditional tobacco, they can also be used to help people quit smoking. Considering the health impact alone, our organization cannot in good conscience support a ban that is harmful to the gay community. Furthermore, we feel it is our duty to speak out against any government’s slapdash attempt to regulate the health of its citizens by limiting freedom or punishing innovation. The market invented a product that circumvented law with science. At GOProud we know that American innovation can offer compromise when freedom is challenged by big government. That is why we encourage the NYC council to make a choice that does not to limit freedom, punish innovation, or discourage people from making healthy choices.