Harm reduction advocates are criticizing lawmakers in New York state for conflating combustible tobacco with vaping in their latest effort to restrict access.
The Albany County Legislature voted 26-11 Monday to ban the sale of all tobacco and nicotine products from certain grocery stores and all pharmacies in Albany and surrounding communities. Albany County Legislator Paul Miller, author of the ban, claims the move is in the interest of public health, suggesting liquid nicotine and vapor products pose the same health harms as tobacco, reported WRGB Albany.
Stores have several months to evaluate their products to comply with the ban and will face fines ranging from $50 for a first offense to $500 for every subsequent violation. (RELATED: Experts Warn NY Vaping Ban Will Lead To Higher Smoking Rates, More Tobacco Deaths)
“We aren’t outlawing tobacco in the county, but we are saying that we want to reduce the number of people that get addicted to cigarettes and nicotine,”said Miller, according to WRGB Albany.
Ample research proves that vaping devices drastically reduce the harm caused by cigarettes, because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are released through combustion of tobacco. Public health experts agree that efforts to reduce tobacco use are admirable; however, they argue those efforts are bolstered, not undermined, by vaping devices.
Smokers who switch to a less harmful vapor product already find themselves heavily restricted in the state. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law on Oct. 23 amending New York state’s tobacco laws to include e-cigarettes, claiming it was to protect public health.
Charles Hughes, a policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute, previously argued the amendment will have the opposite effect on public health because it restricts use of the products to areas where smoking is allowed. Smokers may be less likely to ever attempt quitting with a vape if the products are relegated to the status of combustible cigarettes, Hughes argued in an October editorial in Economics 21.
“Failing to recognize the differences between conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes could slow the rate at which people shift away from conventional cigarettes,” Hughes warned.
He pointed to a study released Oct. 2, 2017 by the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center, which shows that, even in a worst case scenario, if vaping were to largely replace smoking, roughly 1.6 million smokers would avoid premature death and collectively add 20.8 million extra years to their lives.
In the best case scenario, roughly 6.6. million smokers would avoid premature death and collectively add 86.7 million extra years to their lives if vaping replaced smoking.
Harm reduction advocates say instead of alarmism over the alleged threats posed by vapor products, users should be taught about the relative risks of those products when compared to smoking.
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