Findlay health officials are right in starting a public discussion about electronic cigarettes and encouraging caution when it comes to their use in public.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid, which contains nicotine and other additives, into an inhalable vapor.
Tuesday, the health commissioner and others suggested that Findlay City Council consider prohibiting e-cigarette use in public places, similar to the restrictions already in place throughout Ohio involving tobacco products.
Los Angeles, Chicago and New York have already placed public limitations on e-cigarette use, but there’s not enough evidence, at least yet, for Findlay to become the first city in our state to do the same.
City Council should hear both sides of the debate and pay close attention as more is learned about the health hazards, if any, associated with the devices.
The fear is the unknown. While a recent study found e-cigarette vapor can cause genetic mutations which can lead to lung cancer, the results are preliminary. Nor has any evidence surfaced that secondhand vapor is a hazard.
Banning e-cigarettes in public settings may help protect the public until more is known, but it would set a bad precedent. Where would government draw the line when health risks are unsubstantiated? What’s next, French fries? Sushi?
Council’s response seems reasonable. First, council members will decide whether to form a committee to look into the issue further. If it does, the committee would then make a recommendation about whether to enact a ban.
Expanding the conversation, though, won’t necessarily bring consensus. The “other side” would come from e-cigarette manufacturers and users, who would likely argue, just as tobacco smokers did, that users should be entitled to enjoy e-cigarettes anywhere they want.
While council decides how to proceed, we would hope common sense and respect prevails.
People who use e-cigarettes, like those who smoke tobacco, should always consider their surroundings. Secondhand tobacco smoke has been determined to be as much of a health hazard as smoking directly. The same may or may not be found of secondhand vapor.
Over the past seven years, cigarette users have adjusted well to Ohio’s rules, which limit where they can and cannot smoke in public. Many understand the risks smoke presents to others, and some even step outside their own homes when they light up.
Those who enjoy e-cigarettes would be doing everyone a favor by doing the same. It may even save council from having to impose a ban.
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