Benefits of E-Cigarettes Doubtful, But None For Innocents Put At Deadly Risk
WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 24, 2018): The most comprehensive report to date on vaping – the use of electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) – provides even more proof of the need to accelerate the already rapidly growing bans on vaping in workplaces and public places, just as the smoking of conventional tobacco cigarettes is already banned, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Banzhaf was one of the first to alert the public to the dangers of secondhand "smoke" from e-cigarettes, and helped to achieve the initial bans on their use, just as he had earlier started the nonsmokers' rights movement which had led to bans on smoking, initially in the U.S., and now around the world.
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The new comprehensive report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says that "there is conclusive evidence that in addition to nicotine, most e-cigarette products contain and emit numerous potentially toxic substances," and "that e-cigarette use increases airborne concentrations of particulate matter and nicotine in indoor environments compared with background levels."
While the report itself is unclear as to whether e-cigarettes are more likely to help current smokers quit or simply perpetuate their use of tobacco cigarettes, there is no suggestion that their use provides any benefit whatsoever to innocent bystanders who are involuntarily exposed to the "airborne concentrations of particulate matter and nicotine."
Thus, says Banzhaf, it is unfair and unreasonable to force innocent bystanders to be exposed to nicotine, a very addictive drug and a highly potent neurotoxin; propylene glycol, a respiratory irritant, which experts have warned can cause respiratory irritation, convulsions, and gastrointestinal distress; and various other carcinogenic chemicals, simply for whatever dubious benefit it might offer smokers.
It would be as if most members of the public would be forced to undergo chemotherapy with all its risks simply because a tiny percentage of the population with cancer might or might not benefit.
It is well known that exposure to nicotine and these particulates in tobacco smoke kills over 50,000 Americans each year. Most of these heart deaths are brought about primarily by nicotine; the same addictive drug found, often in the same or higher concentrations, in smoke from tobacco cigarettes.
It also includes over 2,000 deaths annually in the most vulnerable population - infants - as a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome [SIDS]. So, even if the deadly risks from e-cigarettes is only one-tenth of those from smoking tobacco, it still represents a major completely preventable health hazard.
Although not mentioned in the report, Banzhaf has helped to document how toxic e-cigarette vapors containing major concentrations of nicotine and microscopical particles of carcinogenic metals and other compounds can be to the almost 100 million Americans who are especially sensitive to tobacco smoke.
This includes many - children as well as adults - with a wide variety of allergies, asthma, hay fever, sinusitis, and other respiratory conditions which make them especially sensitive.
Prof. Banzhaf helped lead the fight to ban the use of e-cigarettes on airplanes, and in jurisdictions such as Suffolk County, NY, and in the State of New Jersey. Today something like two dozen states have laws restricting the public use of e-cigarettes, as do a much larger number of cities (including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia) and counties.
Banzhaf argues that this new report should provide a catalyst for jurisdictions which still force people to inhale these toxic chemicals to define bans on smoking in public places to include vaping.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
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