Electronic Cigarettes Heat Up as Anti-Smoking Movement Stamps Itself Out

by on January 21st, 2015
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As government mandated smoking bans on private businesses became the norm, a secondary wave of markets arose for products like electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and smoking patios. However, the latest round of anti-smoking rhetoric only seems to be making minor ripples.

The point here is to not necessarily defend or promote cigarette smoking, but offer some perspective on individual choice and common sense when it comes to the use of legal tobacco products.

Bans going up in smoke

Several attempts to ban smoking outdoors or in public parks are meeting minimal success compared to the tsunami of previous indoor mandates. While New York City has banned smoking in its parks, enforcement is nearly impossible and many folks don’t really seem to care if people smoke outside.

“This is where we draw the line,” said Audrey Silk, founder of NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. “It’s time to flip the script. The informed choice to use a legal product is normal.”

The same goes for some proposed indoor bans on electronic cigarettes, which emit an odorless nicotine vapor that dissipates in seconds. Electronic cigarette opponents also charge that they might appeal to children, but they are covered by the same age restrictions as cigarettes and other tobacco, so that isn’t a likely outcome.

What the marginal support for proposed bans on outdoor smoking and electronic cigarettes suggests is that odor is main issue most people have with cigarettes, cigars or smoking. Even most smokers acknowledge the smell as annoying and bothersome.

Assuming that secondhand tobacco smoke presents relative health risks when someone faces continued exposure indoors, it is still hard to justify government bans on smoking outside and electronic cigarettes indoors in most cases. Most of the outdoor bans are logistically unenforceable and people just don’t seem bothered by the odorless vapor produced by electronic cigarettes.

Anyone who can read knows the health dangers and risks associated with tobacco smoking, but it seems that about 20 percent of the population still chooses to smoke. It’s just a matter of where they do it. The number of smokers is now less than half of what it was in the Rat Pack era of the 1960s. Some maintain those numbers are probably a bit higher when you consider many who smoke won’t admit it in a survey.

Marketing mandates missing their mark

Two other recent regulatory attempts to curb smoking are in the marketing areas of product packaging and product placement in movies and television.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently attempting to force the tobacco industry to use unpleasant and just plain gruesome images (black lungs, corpses, disfigured faces, etc.) on cigarette and tobacco packaging. As expected, the tobacco companies are fighting this regulation as a violation of free speech.

As stated earlier, pretty much everyone in the world knows that cigarette smoking can cause disease and death. What everyone in the world should also know is that as long as cigarettes are legal, a certain percentage of people will apparently choose to use them despite the health ramifications.

Besides the obvious self-interest of the tobacco industry, you have to wonder if the public really wants the federal government focused on another feel good punitive public relations campaign at a time when we are undergoing a national health care overhaul in a struggling economy.

On a lighter note, even smoking in the make believe world of movies and television is under attack from the World Health Organization (WHO) and others. They are pushing for stricter ratings on movies that portray actors or even cartoon characters smoking, as well as for showing less smoking overall, even in productions set in times when smoking was common.

So, even as the AMC drama “Mad Men” makes smoking seem cool again, very few people are going to take up the habit to emulate characters on a cable television show set in the early 1960s. The upcoming ABC network show “Pan Am” set in the ’60s is apparently planning to play down the smoking aspect of that era.

Whether these organizations try to come down on electronic cigarettes in movies like “The Tourist” with Johnny Depp remains to be seen. Electronic cigarette brands seem free of these restrictions and regulations for the time being since their products are new and long-term health impacts are still being studied and reviewed. Only the future and hopefully some common sense will determine the regulation of electronic cigarettes.

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