Los Angeles has decided to follow in the steps of New York City and Chicago in banning e-cigarettes: On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban “vaping” from bars, restaurants, and other public spaces.
The measure will need to be signed by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti in order to pass — but if he gives it the go-ahead, it would only take 30 days to take effect. The law would also ban e-cigarettes from outside places like parks, benches, farmers markets, and outdoor dining areas.
Back in December of last year, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a law that banned e-cigarettes indoors. Smokers arrived in the Blue Room of City Hall and lit up cigarettes in protest while he signed the law, but Bloomberg, an avid opponent of smoking, was unmoved: “We just don’t permit smoking in public buildings,” he said, according to the NY Daily News. “I think it’s time to leave. Thank you very much.” New York City has fought to curb smoking in the city for the past decade.
Advocates of e-cigarettes, who call themselves “vapers,” believe that the battery-powered devices are healthier than traditional cigarettes and are able to help smokers kick their tobacco habits. Opponents of e-cigarettes, on the other hand, argue that e-cigarettes could be harmful in their own way, and may act as a “gateway” to smoking for young people.
Preliminary research has suggested that e-cigarettes can cause damage to the lungs, but this is countered by research showing that e-cigarettes significantly help people quit smoking. One such study found that e-cigarettes are just as effective as nicotine patches in helping smokers quit.
But public health officials and politicians like Councilman James Gennaro, who helped pass the NYC bill, are hoping to nip the practice in the bud. "These are being touted as safer than cigarettes, but we don't really know that," Gennaro said, according to USA Today. "Just seeing people smoking things that look identical to cigarettes in subway cars, colleges and public libraries will tend to re-normalize the act of smoking and send the wrong message to kids."
The Ban: A ‘Public Health Disservice’?
Some public health officials, like Charles D. Connor, former president and CEO of the American Lung Association, see it in a different light — they believe that e-cigarettes are more helpful than harmful. “Some restrictions make sense for traditional tobacco cigarettes,” Connor writes in a blog post. “But this proposal is misguided because it would do a public health disservice, discouraging smokers from switching to less-harmful electronic cigarettes that do not combust tobacco and therefore, do not create second-hand smoke.”
“As a former president of the American Lung Association,” Connor continues, “I have seen how e-cigarettes have become the subject of much confusion and misinformation, which has led to a classic case of guilt by association […] The lesson is crystal clear: Different products require different regulations.”
Though e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, Connor stresses that the real danger lies in the combustion of tobacco, which does not occur during vaping. The risks associated with vaping may be much lower than those having to do with regular cigarettes. However, not enough research supports claims from either sides of the story, quite yet; so it may be some time before e-cigarettes are banned in other cities.