03/18/14

Hot Issue: E-Cigarettes

Trying to quit smoking? Let me congratulate you because since the 1960s over 20 million people have died as a result of smoking and secondhand smoke. You’ve probably tried the patch, chewed the gum, and only dreamed of going cold turkey. Now in e-cigarettes you have the opportunity to potentially quit for good, but before health officials can make an official ruling local governments are trying to infringe upon your rights.

Opponents of this position claim e-cigarettes are being marketed to children with fruity flavors and cartoon characters, and thus a whole new generation are being hooked on nicotine. While I can see their point, I believe the existing rule of law should trump creating new laws. It is illegal for minors to purchase e-cigarettes, and vendors who do sell to kids should be prosecuted to the full extent the law will allow. If harsher punishments are required to deter transactions to minors, then I would possibly be in favor of that.

In large part as a society, we have ostracized smokers because of the health risks they pose to individuals. At first they had separate sections in restaurants and hotel rooms; now in most places, smoking is not allowed. Let me be clear, I’m completely fine with this arrangement. However, if someone is attempting to make a successful re-entry into society using the tools at their disposal, let’s not tell them 1) their tools are bad until we know if in fact they’re unhealthy and 2) they have to go back to their old lifestyle – a separate but not equal setup.

Clearly, the vapors e-cigarettes emit are different than the burning tobacco and tar of a cigarette, but I’m not a doctor or health professional. If the FDA decides warning labels are necessary for e-cigarettes just like cigarettes, then I may change my position. For now, lawmakers can’t be too quick to make a decision without all the facts.