Lawmakers in cities and states across the U.S. are enacting new bans and restrictions on e-cigarettes that public health experts warn will “harm everyone.”
Democratic officials in San Francisco passed the first ban on flavored vaping products in the country Tuesday, arguing the different choices are enticing kids and creating a gateway to smoking cigarettes. Despite ample research showing the flavors are popular among adults trying to quit smoking, Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey are looking to follow suit with a bill banning all flavors expect for tobacco, clove and menthol.
Vaping advocates are blasting the policy shifts in New Jersey and California, arguing flavors help smokers trying to quit, “disconnect from the taste of tobacco.” Public health experts also note vaping devices offer smokers a viable way to reduce health risks to those around them.
“Anti-vaping activists have been cynical and unscrupulous in using flavors to argue for regulations that would in theory protect kids, but would in reality harm everyone by making the products less appealing as alternatives to smoking,” Clive Bates, public health expert and director of Counterfactual Consulting, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There is no evidence to support any of their claims about flavors — they are mostly just making statements that sound frightening or evil to sway politicians and to promote a moral panic. This is the way prohibitionists always go about their business, so we should not be that surprised.”
The proposal in New Jersey will still need to pass through both houses of the state legislature and be approved by Republican Gov. Chris Christie before becoming law. The San Francisco ban will face a final vote by the city board of supervisors at the end of June, which is likely to pass and be implemented in April 2018.
Many medical professionals actually advise smokers to give the devices a try. A survey published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last year found 57.8 percent of practicing physicians recommend e-cigarettes to smokers trying to quit, although the push to cast public doubt on vaping may be impacting this number.
Fears over vaping having a youth “gateway effect” to cigarettes appear to be largely unfounded. A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released June 15 reveals after a rapid increase in youth vaping between 2011 and 2015, teens are now giving up the habit. The number of middle school and high school students who use a vaping device dropped from 3 million to 2.2 million in 2016.
“The new data support, but don’t prove, the theory that vapor products are alternatives to smoking and have contributed to the record low and the rapid decline in teenage smoking in the United States since 2010 by displacing cigarettes,” Bates told TheDCNF. “If that is the case, then the story about youth vaping is very positive, and not the calamity that some activists like to pretend.”
In addition to flavors bans, state officials are moving to further restrict where e-cigarettes can be used with laws treating vaping devices like traditional cigarettes. Lawmakers in New York voted to expand the state ban on vaping in certain areas to include restaurants, bars, offices and any other public, indoor space June 19.
Officials in Austin, Texas, voted Thursday to pass a similar ban, which expands a city ordinance from 2005 restricting the sale and use of cigarettes in public, including parks and bars.
Vaping advocates argue these restrictions will only serve to further dissuade adult smokers from using the devices to quit.
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