Smoking e-cigs in public places burns bystanders

Indoor smoking in common areas a step backward for public health, decency

Kueppers is a sophomore journalism and political science double major and Copy Editor of The Spectator. Kueppers can be reached at [email protected] or @cmkueppers.

Story by Courtney Kueppers, Copy Editor

Sitting in a movie theater over winter break I was in shock. Not because of the featured flick, but because the guy sitting in front of me was smoking. There was no odor, just puffs of vapor leaving his electronic cigarette floating into the air.

I barely remember smoking being a norm in public. It has been seven years since my home state, Minnesota, banned smoking in public places, and even before that it was restricted.

I admit that I knew very little about e-cigarettes but if it was something that was going to permitted in places like movie theaters I figured I ought to know a bit about them. What I found did very little to make me feel comfortable with these booming cigarette alternatives. There is very little reason to believe they are safe and I think we ought to learn from history before we repeat it.

Right now there is very little conclusive research on the vapors that the e-cigarettes contain. Yet the industry is booming since e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and can be purchased without proof of age. The number of teens and tweens using these products doubled between 2011 and 2012 according to a study authored by the Center for Tobacco Research and Education released earlier this month.

The study states e-cigarettes are marketed the same way conventional cigarettes were marketed in the 1950s and 1960s, using television and radio ads. This type of marketing for conventional cigarettes has been banned for more than 40 years.

While it can be concluded that e-cigarettes are safer than normal cigarettes since the nicotine isn’t burned, the long-term effects are unknown.
It all sounds a bit too familiar to me. When conventional cigarettes first became popular there was very little known about the long-term effects.

People smoked everywhere with very little concern. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Surgeon General’s report “Smoking and Health” was released and strongly advised the country against using cigarettes.

For our generation it seems obvious: smoking poses serious concerns to our health. It seems inevitable to me that e-cigarettes are just too good to be true.

I think we have to learn from the first time around to advocate against these products early. Why wait until we know the long-term effects to ban them from public places and put restrictions on who can buy them?

Just last week I was enjoying lunch in Davies when the guy at the next table took out his e-cigarette. It seems like a huge step backwards to me. We know how nicotine affects the body, so why bother?

The only positive I see with this product is for people who are trying to wean themselves off nicotine and the e-cigarette allows them to do that. But middle- and high-school-aged children? For them e-cigarettes are just a stepping-stone to more conventional tobacco products, according to the study done by the Center for Tobacco Research and Education.

Currently in the Wisconsin legislature there is proposal to allow e-cigarettes to be used indoors despite the smoking ban, which has been in effect since 2010.

Everyone has vices. It is human nature. I’m just saying that we ought to keep making progress instead of moving in reverse. All the restrictions placed on traditional cigarettes should also apply to e-cigarettes now, not when we know the long-term effects.