Lawmakers in Dearborn, Michigan have passed new restrictions on e-cigarette use in the city’s government-owned parks and “mini-parks.”
The ordinance, approved by the Dearborn City Council in April, defines tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes as the same product and prohibits residents from using any tobacco or e-cigarette products within 15 feet of any “play structure” in government parks.
Violators of the new ordinance may be fined $50 or sentenced to mandatory community service.
Science, Not Scares
Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, says lawmakers should have to prove new regulations are based on science and not on unproven health scares.
“If the leadership in Dearborn wants to outlaw this product for public safety, it should be incumbent on them to prove there is a public health issue,” LaFaive said. “Linking e-cigarettes with combustible tobacco is wrong.”
Better Ways to Improve Safety
LaFaive says there are proven ways to increase the safety of Dearborn’s residents, and banning e-cigarettes in government parks is not one of them.
“I would be willing to bet Dearborn officials could invest more in policing, for instance, and save more lives than they would by mandating e-cigarettes not be consumed in public or in a public space,” LaFaive said. “There are countless alternatives to direct their energies that would be more life-enhancing and life-improving than eliminating or outlawing a product that should be part of a public health strategy.”
Fewer Smokers in Britain
Robert West, a professor of health psychology at University College–London’s Health Behavior Research Centre, says American lawmakers should use Great Britain’s policies toward e-cigarettes as a guide in efforts to improve public health.
“England has treated e-cigarettes as harm-reduction devices, and the effect appears to have been a decrease of around 20,000 cigarette smokers per year in the last couple of years, over and above what would have been expected otherwise,” West said.
West says lawmakers’ insistence on treating e-cigarettes and tobacco as if they were the same product can undermine public health efforts.
“Treating e-cigarettes like conventional cigarettes, when they are so different, runs the risk of making public health bodies look as though they are basing policies on puritanical zeal against nicotine, rather than a genuine desire to reduce human suffering,” West said.
Danedri Herbert ([email protected]) writes from Kansas City, Kansas.