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?
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