I hadn’t heard of vaping until one night at a party in a dark basement a random guy passed an e-hookah to me and I took a hit. Now it seems that people smoking e-cigarettes has become an everyday site, including in parks and bars, despite Mayor Paul Soglin and the City Council’s move to include e-cigarettes in the smoking ban. As horrific as the thought is, this might mean the end to wasting weekend days going out to State Street and smoking vapor.
The council’s reasoning is that “we as a society still don’t know how e-cigarettes affect public health.” Is lack of knowledge really an adequate reason to ban something? Furthermore, preliminary findings on e-cigarettes show that they could actually benefit society. Until something is proven to be harmful to society, we shouldn’t be banning it.
Although there isn’t a plethora of scientific studies about e-cigarettes, so far researchers have said smoking e-cigarettes is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes. While they contain a level of nicotine as well as some other chemicals, the amounts are significantly less than in traditional cigarettes.
Also, the culture in which e-cigarettes are smoked is different from that of regular cigarettes. Smokers of e-cigarettes tend to be non-chronic, and the practice is seen as more of a recreational one, as compared to the smoking of tobacco, which involves powerful nicotine addiction. The more recreational nature of e-cigarette and vapor use makes its use different from tobacco usage in that it is less of an addiction and more of a choice. Banning e-cigarettes in public infringes on a person’s choice.
In addition, smoking e-cigarettes as an alternative to traditional smoking has been shown to decrease the habit in current smokers. Although there is still a lot to learn about the effects of e-cigarettes, a study the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that e-cigarettes may be a viable tool for those who want to quit using tobacco, a substance we definitively know causes cancer and other serious health problems. A study earlier this year also found that smokers have a 60 percent higher chance of quitting using e-cigarettes than when using other methods such as the nicotine patch. In that case, it is helping lower the impact of the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. In fact, in July, a team of researchers argued that a full-scale ban seems unnecessary and could do more harm than good, as allowing e-cigarettes to compete with traditional tobacco products could save lives.
This brings me to my last point. The reasoning behind the e-cigarette bans and regulations is that we don’t know enough about the long-term health effects. This is problematic. We come to conclusions on a fear-driven basis far too quickly. The American Cancer Society has not taken a complete stance on the safety of e-cigarettes due to the small amount and ambiguity of available scientific data.
We should not make law out of fear, but out of close examination of the evidence presented. When there’s not enough evidence, the best way to move forward is not to prohibit, but to seek out more evidence to make a decision based on scientific research in the future. When looking to ban something, we should look for irrefutable evidence before making a decision. This fear-based decision will not only impede on vapor users’ ability to enjoy but will hurt business like Knuckleheads and Pipefitter, who offer trial tastes of their vapor products.
So, with the inadequate amount of evidence present to weigh in on whether e-cigarettes have a positive or negative effect on one’s health, it’s best to wait for more complete research before making sweeping legislative motions that could offer more harm than protection.
Nichalous Pogorelec ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying sociology.
Editor’s note: The text of this column has been edited to clarify the stance of the American Cancer Society.