Taking on the E-Cigarette Haters

Monday, December 09, 2013

The City Council is currently considering a bill that would forbid the use of e-cigarettes anywhere cigarettes are currently banned, including bars and restaurants. Mayor Bloomberg has also taken a firm anti-e-cig stance. However, some public health advocates have taken the opposite stance. Amy L. Fairchild, professor, and James Colgrove, associate professor, both of sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia, discuss their op-ed, "The Case for Tolerating E-Cigarettes," that ran in today's New York Times.

An E-Cig Primer

  • Is the vapor harmful? Fairchild says the overwhelming weight of evidence indicates that e-cig vapor is not harmful to bystanders.
  • But nicotine's not good for you, right? Think of nicotine as similar to caffeine. In very high doses it can be harmful, but Colgrove and Fairchild say that we can "tolerate nicotine addiction" particularly when the alternative is harmful smoke.
  • But in a bar, how do you know if someone's e-smoking? Caller Andrea says that the main give-away for a real cigarette is the smell. And Colgrove says that "we have no reason to think this won't be self-enforcing." E-cig smokers may have an incentive to point out the real smokers among them.
  • Won't this "re-normalize smoking"? There's a concern that once again normalizing the act of smoking could make it more socially acceptable, with e-cigarettes serving as a gateway to real cigarettes. But Fairchild argues it could work the other way just as easily -- normalizing e-cigarettes could make more traditional smokers make the switch.


James Colgrove and Amy L. Fairchild

Comments [35]

Jcdew67 from Nashville

So what about that hot,steaming cup of coffee with caffeine? Have long term studies been done on that? Caffeine is a highly addictive substance just like Nicotine.
It should not be allowed in public places until more studies are done.
The same with Fog Machines that use VG instead of dry ice,it is the same thing ecigs use.

Apr. 04 2014 04:17 PM

Further research needs to be done to find out the effects of e-cigarets on the smokers and on the exposed. The exposure to the vapor does not bother me when done in a designated smoker area but when exposed to it in public transportation or an area not designated to smokers then it is a bother. I don't care if does not have any negative effects on the person exposed to it but the smell can be overwhelmingly annoying.

Apr. 03 2014 01:27 PM
notwiththeecigindustry from TO

@truth and beauty - a drug delivery system? - well I suppose technically yes - but so is a coffee cup.

Mar. 20 2014 09:33 AM

Do you folks think climate science is in dispute too?

Dec. 09 2013 09:13 PM
tom LI

Whenever someone, any spokesperson for ANYTHING says, "The overwhelming evidence indicates its harmless..." - when a product is but a year or two old - should be Tazed on the spot and pulled off the show!

How many times has the American public heard that line, and been burned by it in a few more years!?!?!

Come on folks...there's something in the thing...or the device itself, the combo of the two...whatever! Again I'll wager there is a harm of some sort.

Dec. 09 2013 07:24 PM
gene from NYC

Mr. Bad:

No combustion doesn't mean no harmful products, as the FDA found.

You've disputed none of my message, only referred to "many studies"--which in reality are all over the map. The industry loves to tout its own Drexel study--but we've been through this tactic before.

The way these two "experts" claim nicotine is just like caffeine, and break their backs bending over to find one excuse after another, however improbable, to allow e-cigs into indoor venues, makes me highly suspicious here too. Again, we've seen this tactic before. They're on a Mission, fine. But this is advocacy, not truly science. And they've overstepped the bounds of logic and social behavior several times, imo.

There is simply no way you can assert as some sort of final fact--without being an e-cig stooge--that there is "no public health risk." The science just isn't there to the point we can unleash these things on a beta-testing public.

You don't know anything about this topic, scientifically or historically, which is why you're so anxious to share I guess... it's just pathetic that people can get yanked around on a leash so easily by e-cig industry propaganda, swallowing it wholesale without the slightest thought, and then regurgitating it so fawningly.

Dec. 09 2013 07:23 PM
tom LI

lets face it - the e-cig is another affectation. A few smokers will quit with its aid, most won't - but I will lay down good money that many more will adopt it as an affectation.

We are an affected nation of Look At Me's! The sudden ubiquitous nature of the cell phone and the Volume 11 public-caller cemented it, and its been down hill since. 20 years from now we'll be tolerating people parading around in their fetish gear in public, certainly at the mall and work place - Furries and Bronies in the Accounting cubicles, Barista's dressed in Latex with ball gags...neighbor mowing the lawn in his high heels...

Dec. 09 2013 07:18 PM

I could see banning e-cigs even though they're harmless if the vapor smelled or clouded up the air, but it is essentially odorless and dissipates quickly... and the idea that 20 people vaping e-cigs in a bar opens the door to someone sneakily lighting up a smelly, smoky cigarette and getting away with it is ludacris.

It's painfully obvious that this proposed ban is not being driven by the fact that e-cigs are dangerous in any way, it is being driven by the fact that real cigarettes are dangerous and people's cognitive biasses cause them to link those old emotions to the new technology despite the facts.

Dec. 09 2013 04:30 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

thatgirl from Manhattan

Thanks for bringing some needed humor to the discussion: "It "feels extra inappropriate" that people are attending theatre events dressed like they're going to a bowling alley." Made me cackle out loud!

Hear, hear! In a cosmopolitan city like NYC, it is indeed offensive when people show up for the theater in jeans, sneakers, or leggings. This city's fashion sense is going to the dogs! Can we ban lazy dressing for public events?

Dec. 09 2013 01:24 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ gene

There is no smoke and therefore no "smoke free air" violation. There is no combustion. You don't know anything about this topic, obviously, which is why you're so anxious to share I guess... I don't care about these things in the least, it's just pathetic that people can get yanked around on a leash so easily by a government scare tactic.

I have no doubt that these e-cig manufacturers want to get their users hooked on nicotine as much as the tobacco industry did. I'm not according them some sort of moral high ground but only saying that there is no public health risk, you can see that by reading even one of the many studies that have been conducted. All of theses neo-puritanical chicken little's should shut up and mind their own business.

Dec. 09 2013 01:10 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Mark from NY.NY

So what are you implying? If they have a connection what is it? Or are you merely trying to smear them by implication?

@ NB

I don't smoke. But I cannot stand the knee-jerk stupidity in these utterly thoughtless comments. These are the same brain dead progressives who will defend the "legalize marijuana" movement to the death but somehow always find time to criticize a harmless vice that has fallen out of favor with the PC gods.

Dec. 09 2013 12:56 PM

Users can quit tobacco without HAVING to "vape" any time any place any how they want. No one's "banning" them. The issue is using them in public places, around innocent guinea pigs.

In all the 200+ comments here and on the NYT site, I see no one identify themselves as part of the e-cig industry. I _strongly_ suspect that there are many, on a full-court-press to legitimize their business--the same louche tactic Big Tobacco pioneered. After all, many of the arguments are the same nonsense that e-cig proprietors gave at City Council the other day.

I also strongly suspect many of the "vapers" creating a ruckus in indoor venues are members of the e-cig industry "breaking" the smokefree air act. After all, so radically normalizing e-cig use would increase sales.

The manufacture of these things is totally unregulated. Are bystanders supposed to verify that the e-cig smoker isn't using the brands the FDA determined held high doses of toxic substances?

And whatever the health effects of this "vapor," multiply that by the number of people who would be using e-cigs in, say, a bar, over 8 hours. This is what the staff would be subject to, workday after workday after workday.

No more suffering the "vapers!"

Dec. 09 2013 12:54 PM

@ Mr. Bad, sounds like you need to relax and have a cigarette,

Dec. 09 2013 12:29 PM
Mark from NY.NY

A segment like this needs to make clear what kind of relationship (if any) the two guest experts have with the e-cigarette industry. Their views seem indistinguishable from the kind of arguments an e-cigarette lobbyist would make.

Dec. 09 2013 12:24 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Bonnie from New York

Fire Hazard? But not a real fire hazard, but something that looks like one? Jesus god I have no hope for the next generation. What are you, 19 years old? Dumbest comment yet. WELL, for people like you with no common sense and who are scared of everything that "looks" like it might be something else how about we just ban red LED lights on e-cigs, OK, have you stopped trembling yet. It's OK, just calm down, no more "thinking" now, just dreams...

Dec. 09 2013 12:14 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Bonnie - If we made things illegal for what people "think," we wouldn't be able to move or breathe without legislators' permission. This is where plain-spoken communication might dissipate panic.

Dec. 09 2013 12:11 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Lee from NYC - "It feels extra inappropriate and invasive in the enclosed underground."

And it "feels" even more "extra inappropriate" to watch unhealthy people eating deep-fried food in closed public venues like subways. It "feels extra inappropriate" that people are attending theatre events dressed like they're going to a bowling alley.

Would that we enact laws based on how you "feel!" If you can't come up with anything more tangible than that, then have a think about it a bit more before you wave your finger at something you don't even know is "wrong"--whatever "wrong" could comprise in this case.

Dec. 09 2013 12:08 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

I would prefer that the city council ban flatulence, if only in public spaces. Methane is a greenhouse gas and can cause nausea and dizziness when released in enclosed spaces like elevators and office cubicles. This law could also be "self enforced" and would not doubt lead to a booming trade in flatulence reducing pills and devices like butt plugs. What could be wrong with shoving something up your *ss until you can retire the wash room and release your gas lawfully? It's for the greater good...

Dec. 09 2013 12:06 PM
Bonnie from New York

I was once in a nightclub in Boston with a friend who was smoking an e-cigarette (this was about 2.5 years ago, so I'm not sure what the e-cig regulations in Boston were then). The nightclub was packed and the guy next to us looked incredulous at my friend as he smoked what appeared to be a lit cigarette (but was in fact, an e-cigarette). This made me think - having a lit cigarette in a packed, sweaty, over-capacity nightclub could be a definite fire hazard, and people (like the guy next to us) might become concerned or even panic if they think it's a real one instead of an e-cigarette.

Dec. 09 2013 12:03 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

There were some guests on Leonard Lopate's show just over a week ago who classified (as do I) e-cigs as drug delivery systems. I think the FDA and the ATF can deal with them that way. No sale to minors; no sale as medicinal value EXCEPT to quit smoking.

Dec. 09 2013 12:00 PM
Vapor Vaper from NYC

It seems to me tobacco bans have been so effective people can't recognize "real" smoking. The difference is pretty obvious and easy to distinguish.

Dec. 09 2013 11:58 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Farley is such a schmuck. "There's no way to tell they're not real cigarettes?" Are you serious? What about using 1 or 2 of the 5 senses god gave you? Do you smell smoke? Do you see smoke? Is there ash on the end of the cig or does is stay the same length. Can you speak, can you politely ask if it's an e-cig or not. Moron.

Dec. 09 2013 11:56 AM
Laura from New Jersey

I took up vaping last April (had not smoked for many years), and found I was very quickly quite hooked, I guess on the nicotine... I was soon vaping at work, or walking away from my office, and there were no inhibitions on when I could vape I found myself constantly using. While at first I found no impact on my breathing, I chose to give it up as by September I really found my breathing affected, and felt it was the e-cig. I also felt my filling of the cartridges myself was exposing me to the very concentrated nicotine and felt this may have been impacting my health. I've felt MUCH better since I stopped vaping.

Dec. 09 2013 11:56 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Farley is such a schmuck. "There's no way to tell they're not real cigarettes?" Are you serious? What about using 1 or 2 of the 5 senses god gave you? Do you smell smoke? Do you see smoke? Is there ash on the end of the cig or does is stay the same length. Can you speak, can you politely ask if it's an e-cig or not. Moron.

Dec. 09 2013 11:56 AM
Harvey from Manhattan

Are the e-cig guests taking money from e-cig companies? Basically, they admit all their studies are early and nondeterminative in terms of the health effects of second-hand vapor.

Dec. 09 2013 11:55 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I think the best advantage of e-cigs over regular ones is that there is no tar in the e-cigs.

Notwithstanding, until and unless it can be conclusively proven that e-cigs pose no threat of harming non-smokers in their vicinity, they need to be banned in public venues. No matter how good they may be for smokers in weaning them from regular cigarettes, we non-smokers still don't want our health jeopardized by second hand smoke or vapor or any other contaminants in the air.

Dec. 09 2013 11:55 AM
Harvey from Manhattan

Are the e-cig guests taking money from e-cig companies? Basically, they admit all their studies are early and nondeterminative in terms of the health effects of second-hand vapor.

Dec. 09 2013 11:55 AM
Lee from NYC

What about "vaping" in the subway. I've seen it a couple of times in the past few days. It feels extra inappropriate and invasive in the enclosed underground.

Dec. 09 2013 11:54 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

Lenore - There were studies done by the tobacco companies by the 60s--they were merely suppressed. The pharmaceutical industry still does that all the time with clinical trials that don't benefit marketing a drug.

Dec. 09 2013 11:54 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

I do not support this bill, and this is the City Council going way overboard in terms of dictating public behavior. I have been in a car, with the windows closed, with someone smoking an e-cigarette, and the vapor is barely perceptible - let alone bothersome. It seems absurd that this would need to be banned in a public park.

Dec. 09 2013 11:52 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

Collin - Except that it's not "smoking," if there's no smoke. Age enforcement in sales should take care of it. Just painting it as "glamourous" isn't enough of a reason to ban them--many products are marketed as "glamourous" that don't necessarily elicit demand/sales with young people. Standards in advertising can be easily negotiated.

Dec. 09 2013 11:52 AM
Lenore from Manhattan

thanks for focusing on the safety issues. The guest says that the studies are preliminary, that we don't have studies as we did on cigarettes in the 1960s. But nicotine, which is addictive, is being inhaled and then vaped.

So it makes no sense to me to allow this unless we know more than we do now! Why wait and then discover things in 5 or 10 years? Everyone here says things like it is "seemingly" or "apparently" safe.

Dec. 09 2013 11:52 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

Correction, Brian: Not all e-cigarettes contain or are filled with nicotine. There are plenty of nicotine-free varieties.

Christine Quinn emphatically stated her support for a ban, saying "Young people are becoming their biggest fans." So enforce age limits in sales. Anything else is ridiculous--like "flavored" cigarettes, many of which are produced outside this country, and enjoyed by adults, predominately.

Dec. 09 2013 11:49 AM
Collin from Ridgewood

I have no real problem with the health risks of e-cigarettes, the vapor doesn't seem to pose any nuisance in bars/clubs/whatever (I've seen people using them at JFK at the baggage claim, even), but what is a little disturbing is the way the e-cigs are being advertised now. They're being glamorized in TV ads, and it seems like they will inevitably get young kids smoking again... I think they should be legal but just like regular cigarettes, the advertisements should be strictly limited.

Dec. 09 2013 11:47 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

This is what many rightly call a "nanny state" mentality. What happened to basic personal freedom? I was all for the indoor smoking ban (servers and nonsmokers should not be forced to breathe secondhand smoke; "smoking sections" are a joke)but this is moronic. The mist that is emitted from these e-cigs is water vapor, is not remotely dangerous and dissipates instantly. As a nonsmoker with asthma I think this is stupid, even worse than the soda ban, doesn't the city council have more important business to attend to?

Dec. 09 2013 10:13 AM

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