Thanks to the hard work of many public health activitists, most Americans are now aware that smoking cigarettes is bad for them. Despite that, over half a million Americans still die each year from smoking related illnesses, so there's clearly more work to be done. Smoking has decreased in popularity sharply throughout the past decade, in no small part to the introduction of newer, tobacco-free devices we call vape kits or e-cigarettes. So why have New York state now banned them from being them being used in indoor public spaces? Will it actually improve public health?
Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that bans the use of electronic vaping devices anywhere that cigarettes are prohibited - so restaurants, cinemas, bars, workplaces - anywhere indoors that isn't your own home. Supposedly, this blanket ban has been brought in to improve public health, but let's take a look at the facts...
What we know about vaping so far
The UK Government has published a report from Public Health England which claims that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes. NHS Scotland backed up this report last month, going as far as recommending vaping to those who smoke as a healthier alternative. And it's not just the UK who are touting the potential benefits of vaping. Earlier this year the Tobacco Control journal published a study that said up to 6.6 million cigarette smokers would live substantially longer if smoking was replaced with vaping over a ten year period.
These studies speak volumes. While vaping isn't necessarily good for us, it has been proven catagorically that it's far less harmful than smoking and is completely FDA approved. So why lump vaping under the same carcenogenic umbrella as smoking?
More harm than good
According to Cuomo, e-cigarettes are "are marketed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, but the reality is they also carry long-term risks to the health of users and those around them." While nobody's disputing the fact that vaping may carry small long-term risks that we don't yet know about (it's still a relatively new technology), there is undeniable scientific research which tells us that these effects are likely to be minimal and a great deal less harmful than smoking tobacco laced cigarettes.
By stigmatising vaping and giving it the same label as smoking, the ban may actually be detrimental to people's health in the long run. The ban associates vaping with smoking and assumes that they're both equally bad for you, which is patently untrue. Those New Yorkers who were considering trying vaping as a less harmful alternative to smoking may now throw their hands up and ask, "what's the point?".
Whatever New York State think this smoking ban will achieve, it will not save lives. In fact, it stigmatises vapers and undermines those who are making the difficult journey to quitting cigarettes altogether
Vaping remains one of the best vehicles for quitting tobacco and nicotine, and should be encouraged as a viable alternative. This will save lives. Further bans will just exacerbate the problem.