Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dane Co. ban on workplace e-cigarette use a smart move

Preliminary evidence suggests some harm still exists in e-cigarette usage

There are a lot of “unknowns” when it comes to using electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs. The practice of “vaping” e-cigs has only been around a relatively short number of years, and any long-term effects of use can’t be definitively provided on the product yet.

E-cigs are different from conventional smoking. For starters, the tobacco is completely removed from the product. This gives users a sense of “safeness” on e-cigs, and some have even suggested that vaping has helped them quit smoking (although there is still conflicting data on that idea as well).

While the product is safer than conventional smoking, it is not without its own harms. E-cigs still contain nicotine, the addictive chemical found in cigarettes. And that's created its own problems: the number of calls to poison control centers related to nicotine and e-cigs has gone up substantially in the past five years as a result (with kids being the main victims).

Recent studies have also revealed that e-cigarettes produce higher levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, than what was previously thought. The amount of formaldehyde present in the vapor is even worse than what’s found in conventional cigarettes – around 5 to 15 times higher.

With these thoughts in mind, several Dane County officials have determined it’s time to regulate e-cigs across the area. A new ordinance is being proposed that would restrict e-cigarette use in workplaces within the county, including in restaurants.

County Board Supervisor Jenni Dye makes a compelling case for such a ban:
“This proposal makes a very simple change in the interest of public health,” Dye said. “By treating e-cigarettes like we already treat cigarettes, we can make sure, in areas we share with others, the air is clean and enjoyable for everyone.”
This is a good move on the part of the county. The city of Madison has already instituted its own version of a vaping ban, and there hasn’t been any noticeable pushback.

Vapers may say that e-cigarettes helped them quit smoking, or that it’s a healthier alternative to conventional smoking. And they may be right. But with ample evidence already demonstrating that it’s not a safe product – even with the limited data that we have – it’s not something we should be promoting in a public setting just yet.

Other methods that help people quit aren’t so intrusive. The beauty of nicotine patches, for example, is that they don’t expose other people to the chemicals inside them – slap it on your arm, and no one else even knows.

E-cigs are a lot more “in your face.” And nobody knows for certain whether the exhaled smoke is fine or harmful to those in the surrounding vicinity, although the early signs are discouraging.

So until we DO know, it’s probably best to treat e-cigarettes like we do regular cigarettes. If we discover that they’re perfectly harmless, then the ban can be lifted. It’s a reasonable approach, however, to err on the side of caution, and a course of action that Dane County officials are smart in taking.


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