The attached letter to the City Council of Duluth, Minn. is in response to introduced ordinances that would extend restrictions on smoking in indoor and outdoor areas to e-cigarettes. The definitions in the ordinances present all tobacco products as presenting the same risks as cigarettes. No justification for these measures is articulated. The primary purpose of restricting smoking in public places is to protect non-smokers from exposure to carcinogens and other toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke. Smokeless tobacco products and, for all practical purposes, e-cigarettes present no such risk.
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. 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.