Monday, January 9, 2012

Expanded Smoking Ban Would Cover E-Cigarettes? Why?

Tonight the new Democratic City-County Council begins it's four year journey.  First and foremost, I hope that they can make it through the next four years without selling off billions of dollars worth of our city for pennies on the dollar, and being known for high levels of corruption and insider back-scratching like the Republican council of the last four years was.

Tonight's meeting will have plenty to accomplish in the form of Council logistics, but won't be tackling to much in the form of legislation.  For the umpteenth time, though, the Council will have a new and improved smoking ban put before it.

The Council and the Ballard administration spent the last few years passing laws that didn't make much sense unless you believed they were trying to kiss the NFL's butt for the Super Bowl.  Nonetheless, both branches completely denied the big game was the motivating factor behind the proposals introduced.  Now, though, after an expanded smoking ban has met with repeated demise, there is no hiding it.  Despite the fact that expanding the smoking ban died in the Council as recently as last month, once again it is being introduced.  The State General Assembly is tackling the issue, too.  This time, though, they at least admit that they are trying to rush the legislation through so that it is in place before the February 5th game.

There is a ton of argument about the smoking ban, on both sides of the issue.  I don't want to discuss that here and now, though.  At least not most of it.  What I want to talk about is e-cigarettes.

One of many styles of e-cigarettes
E-cigarettes are designed as a method to help people quit smoking.  They use little cartridges in a battery-powered tube to give those trying to smoke a puff of nicotine to help calm their addiction.  They are approximately the same size as a regular cigarette, and unlike other smoking cessation methods help the smoker with the physical habit that accompanies their addiction, as well as the nicotine addiction.

Tonight's expanded smoking ban proposal, Prop 18, includes banning the use of e-cigarettes anywhere where the use of regular cigarettes are banned.  My question is: why?

E-cigarettes may have a similar size and shape as a normal cigarette, but the similarities pretty much end there.  When a user takes a drag of an e-cigarette, they exhale a breath of water vapor.  It's initial appearance is similar to a puff of smoke.  Unlike exhaled cigarette smoke, though, the exhaled e-cigarette vapor is completely odorless and dissipates quickly.  There is no odor being absorbed in your hair and your clothes.  There is no second-hand smoke.  There is simply a little puff of nothing that almost immediately disappears.

E-cigarettes are also being widely reported as one of the most successful smoking cessation tools.  Since it tackles the physical habits that accompany the addiction, it feels more proper to a smoker trying to kick the habit.  If one of the points of a smoking ban is to eventually lower the number of smokers, then adding similar bans to e-cigarettes as there are on regular cigarettes means you are telling those trying to kick the habit that one of the most successful ways to do so is simply not acceptable if you have to look at it.  Banning e-cigarettes in restaurants and bars is the equivalent of telling those that want to quit smoking that you would rather see them smoking a real cigarette outside than use an unintrusive and successful cessation tool inside.  Basically, you would rather them kill themselves than have to watch them try to save themselves.

Banning e-cigarettes is all about image and nothing about danger. It has nothing to do with the smell.  It has nothing to do with the dangers of smoking.  It has nothing to do with the reports of dangers of second-hand smoke.  It's all about whining about something simply because you don't want to look at it.  And it puts smokers in harms way.