Officials in a Washington state town are lumping electronic cigarettes in with combustible tobacco through a new ban, suggesting to residents that the products are just as harmful as smoking.
The Kent City Council voted Thursday to ban all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco like snus, from public park property, joining four other cities in King County that have already enacted similar restrictions. The only property exempted from the ban is a popular golf course facility. Included in the tobacco ban are all vapor products such as e-cigarettes, which research proves reduce the health harms from combustible cigarettes, reports Q13 Fox.
Vaping devices heat liquid nicotine and do not contain tobacco, but continue to be painted as tobacco products and included in restrictions applied to traditional cigarettes. More than 1,200 public park systems in the U.S. have banned vaping and smoking.
“The city of Kent is a little behind this trend,” said Julie Parascondola, the director of Parks in Kent, according to Q13 Fox. “We understand that we can’t prevent people from smoking, but promoting healthier lifestyle choices aligns directly with our mission of fostering overall wellness for Kent residents and parks’ visitors.”
Public health experts agree that efforts to reduce tobacco use are admirable; however, they argue those efforts are bolstered, not undermined, by vaping devices. They say if American cities truly want to promote better “lifestyle” choices, vaping should not be lumped in with restrictions targeting tobacco.
Electronic cigarettes reduce harm caused by cigarettes to the user by up to 95 percent because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals and toxins from smoking are released through combustion.
Scientists at the University of Catania in Italy recently conducted a three-year study investigating the effects of regular vaping on the body of the user, finding “no evidence of health concerns associated with long-term use of e-cigarettes” on blood pressure, heart rate, body weight, lung function, respiratory symptoms, exhaled breath nitric oxide and exhaled carbon monoxide.
Recent research also shows vapor from e-cigarettes does not pose any meaningful secondhand risks. A forthcoming study investigating the health impact of aerosol vapor emitted from the devices shows that chemical levels in the vapor released from e-cigarettes are well below the safety limits suggested by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.
Local governments throughout the country continue to try to restrict alternative smoking products, relying on dated statistics or predetermined narratives about their alleged dangers while ignoring positive research. Public health experts focused on harm reduction say these local bans are undermining public health and actually keeping residents hooked on cigarettes.
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