BOSTON, Mass. (Oct. 1, 2013) – A statewide ban on the indoor use of electronic cigarettes could actually do more harm than good for the commonwealth’s public health, R Street Institute President Eli Lehrer cautioned today in a letter to Massachusetts lawmakers.

Lehrer raised concerns about H.B. 3639, a bill currently before the Joint Committee on Public Health. While expressing support for provisions of the bill that bar the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, Lehrer told the committee’s co-chairmen – state Sen. John F. Keenan and Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, the measure’s sponsor – that “a near-universal ban on e-cigarette use in public places might well result in some people who would otherwise quit continuing to smoke.”

“In addition to constituting an unjustified restriction on the liberty of e-cigarette users, restricting adults from using e-cigarettes in appropriate places is likely to discourage some smokers from switching to the products from far more dangerous tobacco cigarettes,” Lehrer wrote.

Lehrer cited the assessment of Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health that cigarette smoke contains between 10,000 and 100,000 chemicals, including more than 60 known human carcinogens, while e-cigarette vapor contains about 15 chemicals, of which only five are of any significant health concern. Unlike environmental tobacco smoke, which clearly has been demonstrated to cause harm to bystanders, there is no such evidence regarding exhaled e-cigarette vapor, he said.

“E-cigarettes may be a part of a strategy that allows adults who cannot quit smoking by other means to get nicotine,” Lehrer wrote. “E-cigarettes are not completely safe, and for smokers to continue their use is not optimal. There also is no assurance that this approach will work, although some preliminary research is promising. But it would not do harm to public health.”

Featured Publications