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Should e-cigarettes be treated like the real thing?




The California Senate approved of adding electronic cigarettes to the state's smoke-free laws Friday.
The California Senate approved of adding electronic cigarettes to the state's smoke-free laws Friday.

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On Friday, the California State Senate approved a plan to add e-cigarettes to the state’s smoke-free laws, banning them from the workplace, schools, public buildings, day care centers, and restaurants. Backers of the bill argue that, though they don’t burn and produce smoke like tobacco, e-cigarettes may have a second-hand smoke risk, and they should, therefore, be treated like real cigarettes.

Opponents of the bill argue that there is no proof of a health risk to bystanders, and that e-cigarettes have, in fact, helped countless people to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes. You already can’t “light up” an e-cigarette on a trains and submarines (they’re banned by Amtrak and the US Navy), but if the bill becomes a law, they, like tobacco cigarettes, would be banned from most public places.

If they don’t actually cause smoke, is it fair to ban e-cigarettes from public places? Or should government be erring on the side of caution until studies can prove that they’re safe? And what about the idea that nicotine is a recreational drug? Should that disqualify it from our workplaces? What about our cars? Should we be treating this technology as helpful or harmful?

Guests:
Margo Sidener, President and CEO of Breathe California of the Bay Area

Michael Siegel, Professor of Community Health Sciences at the School of Public Health at Boston University