Research & Commentary: Bloomington’s Vaping Ban

Published November 17, 2014

As electronic cigarettes grow in popularity, state and local governments are debating whether and how the products should be regulated and taxed. One such regulatory question is whether to include e-cigarettes and other vapor products in citywide and statewide smoking bans. 

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Bloomington City Council is considering a new law banning vaping in nearly all public places within the city. The vaping ban would disallow e-cigarette use even in vaping stores. This would end the sampling of new products, even those that don’t contain nicotine. 

Extending smoking bans to e-cigarettes and other vapor products is inappropriate and counterproductive. Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, told Budget & Tax News such bans do far more harm than good. “There’s no smoke from e-cigarettes, so the ban won’t reduce secondhand exposure. If anything it’ll increase it by causing more people to keep smoking cigarettes, rather than quit by switching to e-cigarettes. And by treating the dramatically less-harmful e-cigarettes like cigarettes, fewer people will be likely to make the switch,” Stier said. 

Vaping advocates in Minnesota oppose defining all e-cigarette users as smokers because changing this definition has far-reaching implications. E-cigarettes simulate the physical and psychological act of smoking while eliminating most of the harmful chemicals and smoke found in conventional cigarettes. Vaping is not the same as smoking, and they argue many vapers use e-cigarettes to stop smoking. E-cigarettes and other vaping devices have far fewer negative consequences for both vapers and bystanders and should not be treated the same. 

Several studies have found e-cigarettes to be an effective and viable option for smokers seeking a nicotine replacement therapy. The American Association of Public Health Physicians has concluded e-cigarettes “could save the lives of 4 million of the 8 million current adult American smokers who will otherwise die of a tobacco-related illness over the next 20 years.” 

The stated goal of including e-cigarettes under a smoking ban is to limit the exposure of bystanders to the toxins that may exist in vapor, the “secondhand” effect. According to current studies, however, secondhand e-cigarette vapor does not possess dangerous toxins, only nicotine. 

One study, conducted in 2013 by an international group of researchers and published in the Oxford Journals, found no harmful levels of carcinogens or toxic levels of any chemical in e-cigarette vapor. A 2014 study by Dr. Igor Burstyn of the Drexel University School of Public Health found, after more than 9,000 observations of e-cigarette liquid and vapor, there is no cause for concern for bystanders from e-cigarette vapor, even under what he called worse-case assumptions about exposure.

Many opponents of e-cigarette use say they act as a “gateway” product to cigarettes, especially for younger users. The evidence, however, shows otherwise. According to HealthDay, in 2013 Theodore Wagener, an assistant professor of general and community pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, studied 1,300 college students with an average age of 19. Only 43 told researchers their first nicotine product was an e-cigarette, and only one of those 43 later switched to traditional cigarettes. In a follow-up survey of these students, most were not using nicotine or tobacco at all.

Many public health experts have concluded e-cigarettes are far safer than combustible cigarettes while offering many smokers the best option to quit. Banning the use of e-cigarettes in private establishments, like excessive regulation and taxation of these products, would be a shortsighted decision ignoring the benefits of e-cigarettes as a nicotine replacement therapy. The Bloomington City Council should consider these facts in deciding whether to impose an e-cigarette ban. 

The following articles examine electronic cigarettes and efforts to regulate their sale and use.

E-Cigarettes Are Making Tobacco Obsolete. So Why Ban Them?
Matt Ridley reports vaping works better than any other method of giving up smoking, and he examines several studies reaching that conclusion. Ridley then asks why, with the success of vaping products, cities are banning them.

Peering Through the Mist: Systematic Review of what the Chemistry of Contaminants in Electronic Cigarettes Tells Us about Health Risks
Electronic cigarettes are generally recognized as a safer alternative to combusted tobacco products, but there are conflicting claims about the degree to which these products warrant concern for the health of the vapers (e-cigarette users). This paper reviews available data on the chemistry of aerosols and liquids of electronic cigarettes and compares modeled exposure of vapers with occupational safety standards.

Secondhand Exposure to Vapors From Electronic Cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes (commonly referred as e-cigarettes) are designed to generate inhalable nicotine aerosol (vapor). When an e-cigarette user takes a puff, the nicotine solution is heated and the vapor is taken into the lungs. Although no side-stream vapor is generated between puffs, some of the mainstream vapor is exhaled by the e-cigarette user. This study evaluates the secondhand exposure to nicotine and other tobacco-related toxins from e-cigarettes.

Regulating a Less Unhealthy Cigarette
Michael L. Marlow of the Cato Institute argues the U.S. Food and Drug Administration jeopardizes public health by not developing appropriate benefit-cost analysis of a proposed rule. FDA “anticipates,” without quantifying, substantial benefits from reducing harm by regulating e-cigarettes and non-cigarette tobacco products. FDA also does not adequately assess costs likely to appear from its suppression of the e-cigarette market. The evolving literature on e-cigarettes strongly suggests they help smokers quit smoking. 

E-Cigarette Primer for State and Local Lawmakers
Joel Nitzkin provides evidence e-cigarettes work as a tobacco harm reduction modality and reviews the arguments against them. He closes with recommendations for actions state and local lawmakers should and should not consider regarding tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes. 

Testimony to the Baltimore Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee
In testimony before the Baltimore Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee on vapor products, Gregory Conley states e-cigarette bans “have no basis in toxicology, and allowing private businesses to make their own choices on the matter is the best policy at the present time. If usage bans are to be enacted, they should recognize the difference between traditional cigarettes and vapor products by, for example, permitting usage in adult-only establishments.” 

Research & Commentary: Electronic Cigarettes
Heartland Institute Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines electronic cigarettes, tobacco harm reduction, and various proposals to regulate e-cigarette use. E-cigarettes have become one of the most popular nicotine replacement products and a key building block in tobacco harm reduction strategies.

Studies Show E-Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit
For years, advocates of smoke-free alternatives, such as electronic cigarettes and other e-vapor products, have known these products are effective at helping smokers quit or dramatically reduce their cigarette consumption. Gregory Conley examines several studies showing the value of vapor products in smoking cessation.

The Case Against Smoking Bans
Thomas A. Lambert, an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, argues the market is the best place to make decisions on smoking. He writes, “a laissez-faire approach better accommodates heterogeneous preferences regarding public smoking.”

Smoking Bans Cloud Free Market’s Ability to Thrive
In a comprehensive look at smoking bans, the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions concludes the best way to create a win-win smoking policy is to inform and educate rather than legislate and regulate.

Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this subject, visit Budget & Tax News at, The Heartland Institute’s website at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database at 

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