Foss: State’s approach on e-cigarettes misguided

A more moderate approach might be best

There’s always a new front in the war on smoking. 

After a successful — and laudable — effort to ban smoking in public spaces and certain private establishments, governments are now turning their attention to electronic cigarettes. 

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation barring the use of e-cigarettes on private and public school grounds. In June, the state Legislature passed a bill that would add vapor products to the Clean Air Indoor Act, the 2003 law that bars smoking in restaurants, bars and indoor workplaces. 

I don’t have a problem with banning e-cigarette smoking on school grounds. 

Nicotine isn’t good for the developing brain, and the data suggests that the use of e-cigarettes among teenagers has soared in recent years.  

That said, the only people I know who use e-cigarettes are adults. 

And it’s not like they took up vaping because they were bored one day and thought e-cigarettes might be a fun diversion. 

They took up vaping because doing so enabled them to stop cigarette smoking, after years of trying and failing to quit. 

If e-cigarettes were just as dangerous as smoking, this wouldn’t be a development worth noting or celebrating. 

But a growing body of research suggests the opposite — that e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes, and that a lot of adults have used them to kick a nasty smoking habit. 

If this is true — and it appears to be — the state’s effort to crack down on e-cigarettes is misguided. 

I’m not arguing that e-cigarettes are 100 percent safe, or that there aren’t any potential health impacts. 

Just that a more moderate approach might be best. 

One recent study, published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The BMJ, found that e-cigarette users were more likely to attempt to quit smoking, and more likely to succeed in quitting, than non-vapers. 

“This study, based on the largest representative sample of e-cigarette users to date, provides a strong case that e-cigarette use was associated with an increase in smoking cessation at the population level,” the study’s authors note. 

They add: “This is the first statistically significant increase observed in population smoking cessation among U.S. adults in nearly a quarter of a century.” 

Which sounds like good news to me — like something that’s not only worth noting, but also celebrating. 

If we don’t hear very much about the positive impacts of e-cigarettes, it might be due to the relentless push to demonize them and cast them as the next great villain in the war on smoking.  

When e-cigarettes came on the market, I was wary of them. I thought they were strange and potentially dangerous, given the lack of research and data about their safety. 

Then I saw how they helped people I know. 

And I changed my mind. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: News, Opinion, Schenectady County

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