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Think Tank: Banning E-Cigarettes Would Harm Public Health And Hurt The Poor

REUTERS/Mark Blinch

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation

Banning vaping in public housing would have a negative impact on health and hit the finances of poor Americans, according to a leading conservative think tank.

In a submission to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) called a proposed ban to the use of e-cigarettes in public housing “unnecessary” because the devices do not carry the same health risks as tobacco cigarettes.

HUD opened up a 60-day consultation period Nov. 12 on whether to include vaping in a ban on smoking in public housing. The ban would apply to 700,000 units and 500,000 units inhabited by elderly households or households with a non-elderly person with disabilities.

Study after study shows that e-cigarettes are around 95 percent safer than regular cigarettes because they don’t contain the vast majority of lethal chemicals present in tobacco cigarettes.

It is true that the long-term consequences of e-cigarette use remain unknown, but according to AEI scholars Sally Satel, M.D., and Alan D. Viard, Ph.D., the “short and intermediate term effects are negligible to non-existent.”

The authors argue that “e-cigarettes offer an effective, low-risk way to change long-standing habits. In contrast, patches and gum for smokers have a high fail rate, with 80 to 90 percent of people trying them not succeeding,”

The scholars caveated their comments, however, by saying they’re in favor of ban on tobacco smoking in public residencies. AEI’s central objection rests on the claim that “discouraging an effective option for public housing residents to quit smoking, a ban on e-cigarettes would harm public health and inflict financial costs on the economically disadvantaged residents.”

The D.C.-based think tank said if HUD decides to go ahead with the regulation, the department should publish a second notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) so there can be a fresh round of public comments.

AEI argue it would “premature” to enact such a regulation based on the current NPRM, which according to AEI, “offers only a cursory, grossly incomplete, and biased discussion of the issue.”

When the ban was first mooted in November it was strongly opposed by the American Vaping Association (AVA). President of the AVA Gregory Conley said,”bullying bureaucrats want to stop smokers from switching to dramatically reduced risk products that are both smoke-free and tobacco-free.”

The executive director of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association Julie Woessner agreed with Conley and said, “it is unlikely that anyone who was dedicated to vaping instead of smoking would obey this rule since there is no way it could be enforced.”

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