Minnesota is set to add vaping to their public tobacco ban; a move critics say forces former smokers to occupy the same areas people smoking.
As vaping has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry over the last ten years, it’s presented quite the legislative challenge across the world. Lawmakers have tended to fall into the school of thought which equates vaping and smoking more than it gives credence to e-cigarettes as a valuable harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. However, this hasn’t been the case everywhere as countries such as the UK quickly accepted vaping and incorporated it into their smoking cessation programs. In America, our experience has been entirely different, with the vast majority of legislators choosing to merely add vaping to their definition of tobacco product and call it a day. That’s precisely what appears to be happening in Minnesota right now, as lawmakers plan to ban vaping.
Proponents of vaping point to a growing pile of peer-reviewed evidence which strongly indicates e-cigarettes are one of, if not the most powerful harm reduction and smoking cessation tools we have at our disposal. Critics don’t give this evidence much thought, and instead focus on what they see as a teenage vaping “epidemic.” Making matters worse, some experts worry that imposing bans like we see in Minnesota may ultimately increase the smoking rate, as vapers are forced into smoking only areas where temptation will be the norm.
The vaping ban in Minnesota would actually be an update of their Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits the use of any tobacco products in public places. This includes workplaces, public transit, schools, and government buildings among others. The update was initially proposed by Representative Laurie Halverson earlier this month during a health and human services committee meeting. She based her argument around protecting the youth, stating “We bring these bills forward today to make sure that Minnesota maintains its status as a leader in health and a leader in preventing youth from starting to smoke.” The only problem is that by forcing vapers into smoking only areas, she may be helping create more smokers not reduce them.
One of the leading voices in the tobacco control debate is Dr. Kathryn Scott, who’s the executive director of the Yorkshire Cancer Research Center in the UK. She’s gone on the record several times to warn against this precise type of regulation, comparing it to forcing recovering alcoholics to go into a crowded bar every time they need a glass of water. She also believes the media plays a significant role in the poor public perception vaping contends with, “Negative coverage in the media has led to a misconception that vaping is dangerous, when the reality is that e-cigarettes have the potential to reduce the harm from tobacco caused to smokers, those around them and the wider society.”
The Case For E-Cigarettes
Looking into the peer-reviewed evidence we have on the topic, and things are even more evident. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Louisville wanted to test all the most common smoking cessation methods and aids to determine which one was the most likely to lead to a successful quit attempt. After collecting all their data, the team concluded that not only is vaping an effective quit aid, but it’s actually more likely to be successful than anything else, even popular prescription drugs. Likewise, the so-called teenage vaping “epidemic” appears to be more anecdotal than fact, as a report of over 60,000 students found that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens are ever picking up vapes regularly.
Taking a look at the evidence for the harm reduction value of vaping and things only get better. A report conducted by Public Health England back in 2015 found that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, but that wasn’t the only one. In fact, for the last several years we’ve gotten a ton of new studies which also concluded e-cigarettes are much safer. In December we got one which found vapor has 93% fewer toxicants than cigarette smoke. But the most motivating piece of evidence we have is the report which concluded the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is about 57,000 times lower than a smoker from a similar background.
This type of regulation has become increasingly common. But that’s doesn’t mean we can give up the fight now. With a few key wins over the past couple of years, momentum seems to be moving in the right direction for the industry finally, but we’re not out of the woods yet. In fact, many experts have called 2019 a make or break year for the industry, so it’s on each one of us to ensure it’s a “make” year. It may be unreasonable to expect vaping be allowed freely in public places of all kinds, but at the very least our legislators should be passing new laws which require public places to add vaping spaces in addition to smoking areas. If not, we will be leading many vapers back into a life of smoking, which simply cannot stand.
What’s the most crucial part about vaping to you? Do you think bans like that proposed in Minnesota are a big deal? What’s the best way to support the value of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.