L.A. Notices That Vaping Looks Like Smoking, So an E-Cigarette Ban Is Imminent


FIN e-cigarette ad

Los Angeles is poised to join Boston, New York, and Chicago in treating vaping like smoking, meaning that electronic cigarettes will be banned everywhere that conventional cigarettes are. Yesterday a committee approved an ordinance that would extend the city's restrictions on smoking to vaping, and the full city council is expected to follow suit next week. As in New York and Chicago, supporters of the ban, unable to cite any evidence that vaping poses a biological threat to bystanders, focus instead on the semiotic threat:

Lawmakers acted after Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said e-cigarettes threaten to make smoking socially acceptable after years of advocacy to discourage the habit. Young people who get hooked on the nicotine in e-cigarettes may then turn to tobacco use, he said.

"We don't want to risk e-cigarettes undermining a half century of successful tobacco control," he said….

"Even if it were determined later on that the emissions from e-cigarettes aren't dangerous to a bystander in an outside environment, the existence of devices like this…in public places does threaten to renormalize the behavior of smoking," [City Attorney Mike Feuer] said.

Fielding and Feuer worry that vaping, the whole point of which is to avoid the nuisance and hazards of dirty, disgusting, dangerous cigarettes. somehow will make smoking cool and popular again. Although there is no evidence to support that rather implausible fear, there is evidence that vaping helps smokers give up a habit that otherwise would impair their health and threaten their lives, as former Surgeon General Richard Carmona pointed out in the Los Angeles Daily News last week:

Published research suggests that e-cigarettes can play a significant role in tobacco harm reduction strategies, since they avoid the toxic byproducts of combustion while providing smokers with the nicotine they crave and the smoking rituals to which they have grown accustomed. Financial analysts opine that, within a decade, e-cigarette sales could overtake tobacco sales.

I recently joined the board of NJOY, the leading independent e-cigarette company, because its ambitions are even higher—to make obsolete the tobacco cigarette entirely.

A well-intentioned but scientifically unsupported effort like the current proposal could greatly impede the effort to defeat tobacco smoking. This regulation, if passed, would disincentivize smokers from switching to e-cigarettes, since many initially switch for reasons of convenience. It would also send the unintended message to smokers that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as tobacco smoking, with the result that many will simply continue to smoke their current toxic products.

Fielding acknowledges that "some say [e-cigarettes] help them quit smoking" but insists "the strength of scientific evidence to get smokers to quit is not there." Former smokers may think they've switched to vaping, in other words, but but what do they know? They probably have not even heard of the precautionary principle.

NEXT: Supreme Court Broadens Police Power to Conduct Warrantless Home Searches

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. This month’s Consumer Reports has an article on the evils of vaping, mostly around the fact that it might not help people stop smoking, and MORE STUDY IS NEEDED!!!!
    Their product reviews are great, their politics not so much…

  2. “Even if it were determined later on that the emissions from e-cigarettes aren’t dangerous to a bystander in an outside environment, the existence of devices like this?in public places does threaten to renormalize the behavior of smoking,”

    Admittedly, recognizing the semiotic threat makes sense, because all they really care about is semiotics anyway. Actual harm reduction doesn’t matter in the face of threats to renormalize icky behaviors.

    1. Semiotics, also called semiotic studies and in the Saussurean tradition called semiology, is the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication.

      I don’t get it.

      1. nicole is saying, in her obtusely academic way, that the thing itself is not the issue with government busybodies, but rather what that thing represents.

        In this case, the fact that eCigs cause none of the harms of actual cigarettes doesn’t matter as much as the fact that vaping kinda looks like a different thing that busybodies want to eliminate.

        1. So she’s saying they’re animists, totemizing the shape of a cigarette.

          1. She’s not that obtusely academic.

            1. She’s more academically obtuse, really.

              1. I’d say she’s acutely academic.

          2. We’ve reached a point in this country where the state of Florida had to pass a law to protect the right of school children to play with toys shaped like guns without risk of punishment from school administrators.

            The Left is batshit insane when it comes to things they desperately want to control and stamp out from society.

            1. I know I harp on the animist thing, but it’s really true. They’re superstitious as fuck. Whether it’s guns, vapers, whatever.

              1. I’m not surprised. These are the same people who believe in commodity fetishism.

                1. Is there a dumber philosophy than Marxism? Seriously. It has to be one of the stupidest fucking concepts of all time, and it still exists for some retards.

                  1. Old-school Marxism at least has internal logic. “Social Justice” is the dumbest concept I’ve heard of in my lifetime.

            2. And again, they fucked up, even doing a “right” thing. They should have instead outlawed zero tolerance for weapons policies in Florida school districts in addition to mandating that toys or other non-firearm implements shall in no way be treated as firearms for the purposes of allocating punishment.

        2. Or rather, they’re afraid that it signals that ‘smoking’ is OK, and that’s a bad signal (not to be confused with a Bat signal, of course) and the signal is even more deadly than the actual thing it represents.

          (With apologies to any actual semioticians on this site–I’m a linguist myself, so I only deal peripherally with semiotics.)

      2. Read Umberto Eco.

        You probably still won’t get it, but its an extension of linguistics.

  3. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said e-cigarettes threaten to make smoking socially acceptable after years of advocacy to discourage the habit.

    Someone desperately needs a nut-punch.

    1. I’m ashamed to say that asshole’s signature is on my kids’s birth certificates.

      It’s kind of cancelled out by having the Termimator’s signature on my diploma, though.

  4. It’s not about public health, it’s about control. They need to control the population and rid them of their vices.

    They are essentially modern day Puritans.

  5. The Victorians-covering-table-legs thing was a myth.

    This here, this is not a myth. If you squint, it looks like a cigarette, so it must be covered up lest women get the vapors.

    1. Or the “vapers”…

  6. It’s all, always, about control. Nothing else.

  7. Vape on an airplane
    Ban is unenforceable
    I’m vaping right now


      1. If only that terrible movie had actually lived up to its hype, or had lots of gratuitous vaping.

    2. Is there actually a ban? I’ve always just vaped away.

  8. Dear Reason:

    You’re scaring away potential allies with all these posts about smoking. Could we have more articles about, say, speaking in tongues?

    1. Its not smoking, no matter how much you hate it. That is exactly the point.

      1. You are missing Marc’s sarcastic point about an earlier thread.

        1. So other than all the others, which thread had a special brand of retard this time?

          1. The Duke/porn thread.

        2. Ah. My apologies, Marc. I skipped most of that thread after seeing that everyone was determined to read exactly what they wanted to onto that piece.

  9. I just noticed that city council lawmakers look an awful lot like busybody star chamber politburo-esque fascisti. I consider that a semiotic threat to my stability of being.

    1. As you should.

  10. I wonder if banning e-cigs (in public) is a violation of the first amendment.

    If they don’t cause you or others any harm, then banning it on the grounds that it MIGHT glamorize smoking is like banning kids from playing with toy guns outside because it might lead to an interest in firearms or gang lifestyle. Or getting shot by the police.

    1. That is an interesting interpretation and it would be interesting to see how that would hold up.

  11. “Young people who get hooked on the nicotine in e-cigarettes may then turn to tobacco use”

    And kids who learn to drive might get hooked on speeding, so, everybody walks or takes government approved public transport.

    Gawd! I despise these little fascists!

  12. Am I the only one who feels in the long term these people will lose? I don’t mean in the near future, because those fuckers are winning and will continue to win. I mean that eventually someone who had this shit crammed down their throat since youth will take an honest look at the anti-smoking movement or the nanny mentality and tear it down from the inside when he realizes that in spite of all their moralizing; they are less honest than their opponents and they will be exposed for the mendacious scumbags they always have been. Plus, advances in medicine will make heart disease and cancer much less intimidating diseases. Much like how penicillin and the birth control pill made the Sexual Revolution possible (at least until AIDS came on the scene).

    Things always seem to work out that way. I mean, it eventually worked with marijuana. It was portrayed as the deadliest drug ever known and was blamed for all sorts of criminal behavior, but eventually it was revealed as bullshit and we are now aware that much of the information provided about marijuana was nothing more than politically charged propaganda of dubious accuracy. And ironically, we now have a lot people who take the exact opposite route, they claim that marijuana has absolutely no negative effects at all in regards to both health and motor skills.

    I don’t know. I just think that in the long run, prohibitionists and nannies often lose. I might not see it in my lifetime, but things have a funny way of working out.

    1. In the long run everybody loses.

      I mean, whatever you think about Geo. Wash., he’s still dead.

      Individuals lose because they die. Factions lose because nobody wins them all. Of course that means that in the long run, every faction wins too. Ever is a long time.

      Since everyone and their opponents eventually die, and since there’s never any resolution of anything that could possibly be permanent (until the universe ends), I guess you can say that in the long run, everything is tied.

      1. I bet you’re a lot of fun at parties.

  13. Actually according to Feuer’s draft ordinance sent to city council, the primary reason behind the ban is to protect public health from “toxins and carcinogens” contained in passive e-cig vapor. This really irked me so I went ahead and set out to research the contaminants in e-cigs compared to those of Los Angeles’ air and human breath emissions, knowing both those sources likely contained said toxins and carcinogens as well.

    What I found was that human breath emissions contain a comparable amount of volatile organic compounds while outdoor air in LA was found to have an almost equal amount of trace elements(metals) as vapor emitted from e-cigarettes. It seems to me like there is nothing to protect the public health from, other than taxes they are going to eventually place on these potentially life-saving devices once they place them in the same category as tobacco cigarettes.

  14. Ah, but you guys really don’t get it – it’s not about facts, but feelings. If you feel that it’s bad, it must be bad.

    And besides, facts are fictional because facts must be collected and analyzed by someone, so they are false. And that’s why feelings are what matters more.

  15. They’re afraid they’ll REnormalize liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.