City Council’s plan to ban e-cigarettes is half-baked

electronic cigarette e-cigarette
Credit: Getty Images

It appears the hardworking folks over at the Philadelphia City Council have too much time on their hands.

One would imagine council would be focusing on important issues the city faces like police corruption, poverty and crime. Did I mention police corruption? But no, they are focused on the terrible, the horrific plague that is e-cigarettes.

Councilman Bill Green appears to be the ring leader of the effort to ban e-cigarettes from use inside business establishments. He’s using the Clean Indoor Air Worker Protection Law (a law that bans cigarette smoke in retail stores and government buildings) as cover for what appears to be a witch hunt against e-cigarettes.

There is a major flaw in the councilman’s attempt at using the Clean Indoor Air Act.

For starters, e-cigarettes do not produce toxic fumes like tobacco-based cigarettes when exhaled, which is the entire basis for the law. Cigarettes produce some 4,000 chemicals when exhaled into the air. A majority of what is produced from e-cigarettes is water vapor.

I’m going to repeat that again because it’s important. E-cigarettes produce water vapor. Someone ought to find the Councilman a chemist.

So how could it possibly fall under the Clean Indoor Air Worker Protection Act? It doesn’t.

Banning e-cigarettes from indoor use will not protect workers, because e-cigarette water vapor has never harmed workers to begin with. That aside, let’s get to the real reason Green wants to ban e-cigarette use in public places.

“An important outcome of this legislation is the affirmation of a tobacco-free lifestyle, since the use of e-cigs in public places erodes decades of critical work focused on decreasing tobacco consumption,” Green said. “Smoking is definitely not something we want to be ‘cool’ again.”

So, let me see if I get this straight.

Politicians over-taxed cigarettes upward of 50 percent more than their retail price in an attempt to make people quit smoking. Only they found out instead that smokers started using e-cigarettes because they are cheaper and somewhat healthier.

Now they want to ban e-cigarettes use in public too?

It will be a tough argument for them to sell because comparing cigarettes with e-cigarettes is like comparing an apple and a pear. They are kind of shaped the same, but they taste way different on the inside.

The major difference being, cigarettes produce toxic chemicals that can damage people’s lungs. And e-cigarettes, as far as we can tell, do not. Although, I don’t believe that banning cigarettes from businesses is necessary either. If a business person wants to allow smoking in his or her restaurant and a waiter agrees to work in an environment with second-hand smoke, then it should be allowed.

Don’t like breathing in smoke while you work/eat? Don’t work there. Don’t eat there. That’s the beauty of living in a free society; people have choices.

Sure, some of the choices other people make aren’t necessarily good or even healthy, like smoking for instance, but it’s not the government’s job to micromanage our lifestyles. That’s our mother’s job and she will do it relentlessly.

But wait, Green isn’t done yet! He has another reason to ban e-cigarettes.

“We’ve seen an alarming increase in the number of children who are using e-cigarettes, and one in five kids certainly aren’t using e-cigs to quit smoking because they’ve never smoked before,” Green said.

The old “saving the children” argument, perhaps one of the most hackneyed, cliché, political moves there is.

Let’s get this straight. This e-cig ban is just the latest example of the petty thrill politicians get from attempting to control other people’s lives. Boy, would I like to see the look on the city council members’ faces if 50 or so protesters lit up their e-cigs right before they ban it.

Full disclosure: I have tried e-cigarettes once and did not like it at all. I do however smoke the good old fashioned tobacco kind.

Matthew M. Turner is a columnist for Metro Philadelphia. His opinions are his own. You can reach him at matthewmturner@hotmail.com.


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