I don’t smoke. I have never smoked. I never even tried one puff of a cigarette during my teen or college years. Growing up, I had seen too many people with emphysema and cancer that I didn’t even want to touch those cancer sticks, and I didn’t hang out with too many people who smoked. I’d like to say that decision was because none of my friends smoked, but it really was due to the fact that I knew my parents would kill me if they thought I was smoking. I also saw friends and family members desperately try to quit smoking and fail; sadly, the addiction was too strong for many of them to overcome. I didn’t want something like that to control me, and I was happy enough with my addiction to food that I didn’t want to pile on another.
I didn’t like sitting in restaurants near the smoking section, and my boyfriend (now my husband) and I chose to wait in line for a seat in the nonsmoking section even if there were several available in the smoking section. We wouldn’t hang out on the sidewalk after a movie because of the blue haze hanging over everyone, and I often chose not to accompany my grandmother and aunts to bingo because I knew I’d be stuck in a fog of cancer-inducing secondhand smoke for at least three hours. When I volunteered to help at bingo, I immediately washed my clothes and showered when I got home. I couldn’t stand the smell that clung to every fiber.
I think I’ve made my point. Few people were more thrilled than I when the smoking bans went into effect in restaurants and bars and other public places. I was so relieved that my sons would not have to grow up trying to eat their spaghetti while gagging on secondhand smoke. They don’t even know that the restaurants we now eat in were separated into those sections only a few short years ago.
Until this week. I don’t know what’s happened, but all of a sudden, they’re EVERYWHERE. E-cigarettes. I’m ready to declare war. We went to a parade last weekend and had to dodge the sidewalk sale of e-cigarettes. Seriously? What the Hell? I knew it was a celebration of our town and our heritage and that various stores would be selling their wares on the sidewalk, but it never dawned on me that the e-cig people would be peddling their vapors among the balloon artists and face painters. To top it off, I overheard people fuming because they had been told they couldn’t smoke e-cigs at their desks. In their office building. While they’re working. In an office full of people. Where kids frequently can be found. Oh, and those no smoking policies that were implemented years ago? Those apply to SMOKING, so why would e-cigs be an exception?
Until these e-cigs affected my children, I didn’t care about them. Just like any other activity people choose to engage in, I viewed smoking e-cigs as a personal choice for people. Nobody smokes them in my home or in my car or in my children’s general environment, so I didn’t care.
Until today. We were sitting in a restaurant having lunch and I saw a woman smoking an e-cig. It’s a nonsmoking establishment. It’s been that way for years. There isn’t a sign on the door because it’s the law. But, there she was. Puffing on her e-cig and clearly enjoying it. I wanted to say something to her. I wanted to say something to the waitress. I wanted to say something to the manager. But, I was afraid of causing a scene in front of my children; I am not proud that I held my tongue, but I knew that I couldn’t confront the smoker until I had the facts.
I have the facts now. Two of my favorite resources are listed below, but I found dozens online in a few quick minutes of searching the web.
- UC San Francisco scientists found, in a paper published May 12, 2014, in the American Heart Association’s journal Circultion, that while the data are still limited, e-cigarette emissions “are not merely ‘harmless water vapor,’ as frequently claimed, and can be a source of indoor pollution.”
- E-cigarettes should be prohibited wherever tobacco cigarettes are prohibited and should be subjected to the same marketing restrictions as conventional cigarettes
- E-cigarettes don’t burn in the way conventional cigarettes do, but “’bystanders are exposed to aerosol exhaled by the user,’ said the authors. Toxins and nicotine have been measured in that aerosol, such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetic acid and other toxins emitted into the air”
- In one study of e-cigarettes, researchers created an environment to resemble a smoky bar and found that “markers of nicotine in nonsmokers who sat nearby was similar for both cigarette smoke and e-cigarette aerosol exposure. Short-term exposure studies of e-cigarette use show a negative impact on lung function and bystanders absorb nicotine from passive exposure to e-cigarette aerosol”
American Lung Association Statement on E-Cigarettes – Key Points
- Because there is no government oversight of e-cigarettes, it is impossible to know exactly what chemicals are contained in e-cigarettes or what the short- and long-term health implications might be
- Initial lab tests conducted by the FDA in 2009 detected levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges
- Two initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (a carcinogen) coming from secondhand emissions
Yes, more studies need to be conducted. Yes, there are conflicting reports about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes. But, smoking is smoking. And if there are smoking bans in place, people don’t smoke cigars because the ban is just for cigarettes. It’s a ban on smoking of any kind, e-cigarettes included. So, the next time I see someone smoking an e-cigarette in a nonsmoking establishment, I’ll be ready with my facts. And, the first words out of my mouth may just be, “What the Hell?”
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