OPINION: City Commission oversteps boundaries with proposed vaping ban

(File Photo Illustration by George Walker | The Collegian)

Recently, Manhattan City Commission discussions have been focused on e-cigarettes and vaping. A new ordinance was proposed to treat these devices similarly to cigarettes by banning them from public spaces.

I can see where the commission is going with this; people don’t want to have someone else blowing clouds of fruity-smelling vapor in their faces while eating at a restaurant. Still, I think a city-wide ban such as what has been proposed is an overstep in what the government can regulate in its community.

A local government should have some power to help maintain a healthy atmosphere in the community. This is why the smoking ban in public places makes sense. Secondhand smoke has been proven for years to be harmful to non-smokers. According to Alex Elich’s article, “Can secondhand vape be harmful?” this is not the same for vaping.

E-cigarettes and vaping are relatively new, so the studies are not 100 percent conclusive in all honesty. Secondhand vape, though, has not been proven to have the same effects as secondhand smoke, so any public health concerns with this ban are irrelevant and unsupported by any studies.

Without the science backing up the proposed ordinance, it seems more like the commission wants to ban vaping due to potential annoyance to bystanders.

If we want to ban things due to potential annoyance, crying babies would not be allowed in movie theaters and restaurants, and people wouldn’t be allowed to swerve all over the sidewalks because they’re too busy looking at their phones to pay attention to the fact they are making it impossible to pass them.

PBS article “The real reason behind public smoking bans,” by Sarah Clune, makes an interesting point. According to this article, the smoking ban doesn’t actually keep the air clean or protect young children from tobacco exposure; instead it “denormalizes” smoking.

In other words, it makes it harder to smoke as smokers try to find someplace where cigarettes are allowed. So if someone is using e-cigarettes to quit smoking actual cigarettes, which are shown to be much more harmful, why would the City Commission want to make vaping more difficult?

Some studies have shown vaping has helped 60 percent of smokers quit cigarettes, according to Justin Caba’s “Smoking vs. vaping: Vaporizers may lessen damage associated with smoke inhalation.” So not only is vaping not harmful or as harmful to the general public, it is also helping the general public end exposure to secondhand smoke. Instead of trying to make quitting tobacco more difficult, maybe we should be trying to help people quit by letting them vape.

If the City Commission wants to do something about vaping, maybe let the business owners deal with it. If they strongly believe e-cigarettes are terrible for their businesses, then give them the power to handle it internally and ban e-cigarettes from being inside their establishments. That puts the power in the hands of the public instead of trying to tell the public what is best for them.

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