New Jersey is poised to become the second state to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places where smoking is already prohibited, with the New Jersey Senate set to vote today on a bill already passed unanimously by the Assembly.
A primary purpose, says Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the antismoking organization which supplied a detailed report supporting the bill, is to protect bystanders who otherwise are at possible risk from heart attacks, just like those inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke. It is estimated that secondhand tobacco smoke causes about 60,000 nonsmoker deaths a year, approximately 20 times as many nonsmoker deaths as from lung cancer caused by inhaling the smoke.
As many studies have found, exposure to even small amounts of drifting tobacco smoke can trigger a heart attack in nonsmokers in as little as 30 minutes. Since a major cause of the heart attacks is nicotine, the main component of the vapor exhaled by e-cig users, those in the vicinity of e-smokers appear to be at similar risk.
ASH’s report also notes that many e-cigs also apparently contain carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. While the amounts are reportedly small, ASH argues that innocent bystanders should not be subjected to any unnecessary exposure to chemicals which can cause cancer. As the ASH report notes:
“Since the FDA has also ruled that the product is ‘illegal,’ no agency currently is testing to see what other impurities or other chemicals [in addition to those toxins and carcinogens already found by the FDA] might also be found in e-cigs, many of which are made in China where quality control and inspections may be less rigorous than in the U.S. Also, at least one manufacturer has been found to have been deliberately adding Cialis as well as nicotine to his e-cigarettes.”
In short, wrote ASH, “it appears that bystanders are being exposed to a wide variety of chemicals in addition to nicotine and propylene glycol when e-cigs are used in public places. While the amounts of these toxins, carcinogens, and other chemicals may be small, ASH respectfully suggests that no person should be able to force others to unnecessarily inhale any potentially dangerous chemicals, regardless of the amounts of toxins or carcinogens present.”
ASH also highlighted the problem from the point of the individuals behind the statistics. It quoted from a letter it received with complained: “My first exposure to e-cigarettes was last year in a hospital, smokers were made to go outside but three e-smokers plus 2 staff were using the e-cigarettes inside . . . . I have lupus and the vapor irritated my nose, eyes, throat, and chest, plus the nicotine was making me feel nauseous so there must have been significant quantities in the side-vapor. I am told I had no rights to stop the use of these cigarettes indoors. It makes a mockery of the new laws.”
Finally, ASH noted that people who wish to quit smoking have many other products — like gums, patches, sprays, and inhalers — which likewise administer the nicotine addicted smokers need. But these products are regulated by the FDA so as to protect them from contamination, and their use poses no risks to others.
New Jersey would become the second state to ban e-cig use in all no-smoking areas. E-cigs have already been banned outright in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, and Mexico among other places, and restricted in Finland, Malaysia, and Singapore.
As this is written, a number of jurisdictions are considering bans on the use of e-cigs in public places like the one now being considered by the New Jersey Senate, and apparently passed 76-0 by the Assembly.
Other jurisdictions are considering banning the sale of e-cigs, a move largely designed to protect potential users of e-cigs, but one which would also help protect innocent nonsmokers from exposure to the vapors.
Such a ban on sales is also already largely in effect in Oregon as a result of legal action by the Attorney General, and the Attorney General of Connecticut has announced plans for similar actions in the near future.
ASH’s actions have so far prompted the FDA to declare e-cigs “illegal,” and to issue a scathing report about their dangers. ASH also prompted several Attorneys General to sue or plan to sue to step e-cigarette sales, and PayPal and Amazon.com to stop facilitating the sale of this product. More recently ASH has been encouraging class action law suits against e-cig sellers, a sample of which appears at http://ash.org/ecigclassaction
PROFESSOR JOHN F. BANZHAF III
Professor of Public Interest Law at GWU, and
Executive Director and Chief Counsel
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
America’s First Antismoking Organization
2013 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006, USA
(202) 659-4310 // http://ash.org