Even the New York Times seems to have been exasperated over the New York City Council’s recent debates on vaping:

In a city where the technocratic mayor prides himself on making decisions based on the evidence, the proposed ban produced one of the most scientifically vague and emotionally charged health committee hearings in recent memory. Anyone who used the word “smoke” or “smoking” to refer to electronic cigarettes, which typically contain nicotine, was instantly corrected by audience members hissing “Vapor!” and “Vaping!”

The health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, said electronic cigarettes were such a recent invention that he could not say whether they were hazardous to the health of those smoking them or those who might breathe in secondhand vapor. He said that they do put out fine particles and chemicals, and “I certainly can’t guarantee that that is safe.”

And what we do when we can’t “guarantee” something is safe… we here in the land of the free ban it. Of course, ecigarettes are not banned, but only because a judge said so.

To be fair, it’s hard to have a scientific discussion when the evidence, pro or con, simply isn’t in yet. I have said before that I expect we will find out this thing is more dangerous than its advocates suggest for vapers. But I also think it will prove to be fine for non-vapers, no matter how much Of course, after years and years of hearing about how smoking bans were justified because of the physical dangers of second hand smoke. That threshold – a reasonable one within limits (family restaurants, yes, entire college campuses, no) – has been lowered to “I don’t like it” and “it makes me uncomfortable.”

The other two arguments are (a) it brings “smoking” back into the public eye which will entice children and (b) “bartenders and staff can’t tell the difference between cigarettes and these things.” In the case of the former, this could be avoided by pushing smoking out of the sidewalks and into the bars. In the case of the latter, as with the discomfort, that’s a fair reason for an establishment to ban them, but not a reason for City Council to get involved.

But, of course they have to because Big Tobacco and Big Tobacco’s invincibility. Big Tobacco, which hasn’t really won a political battle since… I don’t know when. Hookah lounges are still legal in NYC, but vaping lounges are more important because… it’s harder than targeting establishments primarily operated and patronized by Middle Easterners?

Having said all of that, the people who were vaping in the council session? Bad messengers. Terrible messengers. The same applies to a lot of vapers who seem to get a thrill out of being in-your-face about it because they can. That’s a good part of the reason why they won’t be able to for much longer. While “it makes me uncomfortable” isn’t a sound basis for a law, it is more than a sound basis for common courtesy. Smokers lost the smoking ban wars in large part because of their own lack of courtesy. Vapers are positioning themselves for the same fate.

Which I fully expect to happen. This is a certain loss. At this point, the real battlefield is (a) keeping it legal, (b) keeping the flavor spectrum as wide as it is now, and (c) keeping Internet sales as open as possible.

Category: Hospital, Statehouse

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