Lawmakers on the Durham County, North Carolina Board of Commissioners rang in the New Year by adding e-cigarettes to the city’s list of “tobacco” products banned from use or possession on city or county government property, including sidewalks, parks, trails, athletic fields, and public transportation stops.
Individuals caught using or carrying e-cigarettes on outdoor government-owned property will be fined at least $50.00 per instance. The new ban will be enforced by city and county law enforcement officers and other local government agents.
‘Somewhat-Shaky Basis’ for Ban
Mitch Kokai, communications director for the John Locke Foundation, says e-cigarettes should not be included in bans on tobacco use.
“The [purported] justification for Durham’s e-cigarette ban shows just how far the action strays from a true public-health purpose,” Kokai said. “Evidence that secondhand cigarette smoke leads to health problems is debatable, but that is the one somewhat-shaky basis for supporting a smoking ban on public property.”
Kokai says e-cigarettes do not involve the combustion of tobacco and are therefore not nearly as hazardous as tobacco.
Scientists’ Opposition Cited
Defending the ban, Durham County Department of Public Health Director Gayle Harris told local reporters the ban was inspired by “expert due diligence” to protect public health.
Michael Marlow, a professor of economics at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, says the expanded ban ignores scientific research.
“‘Expert due diligence’ by the public health officials would have uncovered that in 2014, [the Journal of the American Medical Association] published a ‘JAMA Patient Page’ that clearly stated tobacco is what makes regular cigarettes so harmful to health, but e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco,” Marlow said. “The article also acknowledged that e-cigarette vapor is much less toxic than secondhand tobacco smoke.”
E-Cigarettes Help Smokers Looking to Quit
Marlow says most smokers want to quit, and public health officials should encourage anything that helps them adopt healthier behaviors, such as nicotine replacement treatments (NRTs) and e-cigarettes.
“About 75 percent of all smokers want to quit, according to a recent Gallup poll,” Marlow said. “This amounts to 32 million of the 43 million smokers. Again, ‘expert due diligence’ would have uncovered a 2013 study in the journal Tobacco Control that casts considerable doubt on the efficacy of [Food and Drug Administration]-approved NRT treatments, such as patches, gum, and drugs. FDA-approved NRT treatments were found to be no more effective than going ‘cold turkey.'”
Andrea Dillon ([email protected]) writes from Holly Springs, North Carolina.
Christopher Bullen, et al., “Effect of an Electronic Nicotine Delivery Device (E-Cigarette) on Desire to Smoke and Withdrawal, User Preferences and Nicotine Delivery: Randomised Cross-Over Trial,” Tobacco Control: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/effect-electronic-nicotine-delivery-device-e-cigarette-desire-smoke-and-withdrawal-/