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Editorial: Restrictions on smoking should cover e-cigarettes

The same inescapable logic that drove restrictions on smoking in public is now making its case against public vaping – the use of e-cigarettes. These devices are poorly regulated, and their clouds of vapors contain ingredients known to be unhealthy – nicotine among them, but, in some, formaldehyde, a likely carcinogen, among others.

So, if cigarette smoking is banned in public based on legitimate health concerns, why shouldn’t e-cigarettes be treated the same? They not only should be, but must be.

Happily, that’s the aim of a group of advocates, including key lawmakers in Albany and health care organizations such as Roswell Park Cancer Institute. They are pushing for electronic cigarettes to be treated like tobacco products, banning their use in places such as restaurants, bars, buses, indoor arenas, hospitals, job sites and more.

The e-cigarette industry is fighting back, of course, but in a disingenuous way. Some claim this is a bid by the pharmaceutical industry to keep people smoking so it can sell them prescriptions. How does that explain Roswell Park’s interest? And why should people trying to quit object, when they can’t smoke tobacco in those places, anyway?

The fact is that vaping creates dangers that no one should have to tolerate unwillingly. According to WebMD, one FDA review of 18 different e-cigarette cartridges identified “toxic and carcinogenic chemicals in some but not others. All but one of the cartridges labeled ‘no nicotine’ did, in fact, contain nicotine,” the website reports.

In addition, it says, toxic chemicals are formed as the e-liquid heats up to make the aerosol that users inhale. Some of these chemicals can cause inflammation and blood vessel damage.
E-cigarettes may well be less hazardous than traditional cigarettes, but that doesn’t make them safe and it sure doesn’t mean their vapors should be forced on those who don’t want to inhale them. Albany was going to act on e-cigarettes earlier this year as part of the budget process, but didn’t. It should take that step now.

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