Duluth e-cigarette ban would be damaging to public health

DULUTH, Minn. (Sept. 4, 2013) – Exhaled e-cigarette vapor presents no threat to non-users that would justify banning their use in indoor or outdoor spaces, R Street Senior Fellow Dr. Joel Nitzkin said today in written testimony submitted to the Duluth (Minn.) City Council.

Moreover, public bans on e-cigarette usage may have the practical effect of reinforcing tobacco cigarettes as the dominant product for nicotine consumption, even though e-cigarettes are one of a number of smoke-free tobacco and nicotine alternatives that can reduce the risk of tobacco-attributable illness and death by 98 percent or better, Dr. Nitzkin said.

A veteran public health physician, Dr. Nitzkin served from early 2007 through mid-2010 as co-chair of the Tobacco Control Task Force of the American Association of Public Health Physicians. His testimony comes in response to the recently introduced Duluth City Council ordinances 10-058, 059 and 060, which would extend existing municipal smoking bans to e-cigarettes.

In his testimony, Dr. Nitzkin encouraged the council to extend age restrictions on the sale of tobacco products to cover e-cigarettes, which could be facilitated by requiring places selling e-cigarettes to have a tobacco license. However, he noted the proposed ban would do nothing to reduce teen initiation of tobacco/nicotine products and actually protects cigarettes from competition from these far less-hazardous products.

“Given the attractiveness of e-cigarettes to current smokers and their lack of attraction to current non-smokers, the possibility exists to harness natural market forces, in combination with regulatory oversight, to reduce tobacco-related addiction, illness and death,” Nitzkin said. “More research is certainly in order. But in the meantime, protecting the public health is best accomplished by implementing what we already know about the determinants of tobacco-related harm.”

The Duluth City Council currently is set to conduct a Sept. 5 hearing on the ordinances, with final reading and a likely vote scheduled for Sept. 9.

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