Claiming E-Cigarettes Kill, California Legislator Pushes Vaping Ban

Mark Leno's bill would prohibit vaping everywhere smoking is prohibited.


Office of Mark Leno

Yesterday a California legislator introduced a bill that would add electronic cigarettes to that state's Smoke-Free Workplace Law, thereby prohibiting vaping everywhere that smoking is prohibited, including offices, bars, restaurants, stores, schools, and hospitals. "No tobacco product should be exempt from California's smoke-free laws simply because it's sold in a modern or trendy disguise," declared Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).

Since e-cigarette are not tobacco products, that explanation is puzzling. Furthermore, since e-cigarettes do not generate smoke, it is odd to ban vaping in the name of maintaining smoke-free workplaces.

The depth of Leno's confusion is further revealed in an interview with Reuters. "Whether you get people hooked on e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes, it's nicotine addiction and it kills," he told the news service. "We're going to see hundreds of thousands of family members and friends die from e-cigarette use, just like we did from traditional tobacco use."

Leaving aside the question of exactly how dangerous secondhand smoke is (and the question of who should determine smoking rules on private property), there is no evidence that the vapor from e-cigarettes poses a significant threat to bystanders. While some of the chemicals in tobacco smoke have been detected in e-cigarette vapor, the levels are much lower. A 2013 study reported in Tobacco Control, for example, found that "the levels of potentially toxic compounds in e-cigarette vapour are 9–450-fold lower than those in the smoke from conventional cigarettes, and in many cases comparable with the trace amounts present in pharmaceutical preparations [of nicotine]."

Tellingly, the strongest evidence Leno can cite in favor of his vaping ban is a recent study that "found high levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in e-cigarette vapor." But as I explained last week, that finding came from a test in which a vaporizer was overheated to a point where no human would be interested in using it. When operated at a realistic temperature, the vaporizer emitted no formaldehyde. Kimberly Amazeen, vice president for public policy and advocacy at the California chapter of the American Lung Association, implicitly concedes the lack of evidence to support a vaping ban, saying, "There is currently no scientific evidence establishing the safety of e-cigarettes." Shouldn't the burden of proof be on the prohibitionists? 

Contrary to what Leno seems to think, it's not the nicotine in cigarettes that kills people; it is all of the toxins and carcinogens generated by tobacco combustion. Since vaping does not involve tobacco or combustion, it is much less dangerous than smoking. Hence the policy Leno is pushing will actually undermine public health to the extent that it discourages smokers from switching.

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  1. All good points, Sullum. Fortunately for Mr. Leno, he doesn’t have to answer to you in any form, nor does he have to prove the claims he’s making. All he has to do is convince 60 other state legislators to vote for his bill for one reason or another and his opinion becomes enforceable at gunpoint.

  2. Nicotine itself is relatively safe if extremely addictive — as long as you do not consume toxic levels. It is sort of shocking that it’s taken this long to figure out a way to inhale it without burning tobacco leaves.

    1. It is sort of shocking that it’s taken this long to figure out a way to inhale it without burning tobacco leaves.

      It’s been known how for quite some time. At least, people have been inhaling drugs for decades. Between tobacco producers, legislation, and market factors the impetus to make it feasible until recently.

      That’s the sad part; cigarette prices have/had to reach the price they did and tobacco farmers had to start giving up to make vaping viable. This moment was the goal.

      1. Inhaling drugs without combustion that is.

  3. People like this can’t be bothered with facts when “CONTROL” over people like us is at stake.

  4. If you are trying to quit smoking by other means, that do not look like smoking that’s okay, because they do not look like smoking.

    Appearance is all that matters in the great enlightened STATE of California.

    1. It’s eerily akin to their attitude towards firearms. I will display my “completely unshocked” face when a CA legislator states that pistol grips cause cancer.

  5. Shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the prohibitionists?

    Can’t the vape manufacturers just slap the FDA disclaimer on their products and be golden?

  6. “Shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the prohibitionists.”

    It’s called the precautionary/fytw principle.

  7. Can we get a ban on California Legislators? They are definately health hazards.

  8. Since e-cigarette are not tobacco products, that explanation is puzzling.

    A puzzling explanation coming from a state representative as to why he will act arbitrarily?

    Say it ain’t so, Shoeless! Say it ain’t so!

  9. Man, Cal dems just TRYIN to out-derp each other. Like its a badge of fucking honor or something to introduce THE MOST POINTLESS legislation!! Fuck me sideways, man…

  10. When operated at a realistic temperature, the vaporizer emitted no formaldehyde.

    But you have to remember that normal humans are imbeciles (except when they vote) and thus need Top.Men. to look after them.

  11. Next up: Suspending school children for pretending to vape.

  12. The real danger of e-cigs is that you’ll buy a starter kit from the local liquor store to replace your pack a week habit and 6 months later you’ll have a “rebuildable dripping atomizer” on a “mod” and you’ll start praising things like “the strawberry cream e-liquid from my latest vapemail” and feel like a hipster asshole.

  13. Kimberly Amazeen […] implicitly concedes the lack evidence to support a vaping ban, saying, “There is currently no scientific evidence establishing the safety of e-cigarettes.” Shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the prohibitionists?

    The pro-science party exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Anthropology is now open. The exhibits show the public how the pro-science party pays lip service to science and scientific evidence when their agenda is served but not other times. Tickets can be purchased on-line.

  14. I guess it’s nice that the voters of CA don’t hold mental capacity against a person who seeks policical office, but perhaps they should consider it, because I’m pretty sure Mark Leno is clinically retarded.

  15. But it LOOKS like a cig! That makes it icky and bad! Think of teh childrun!

  16. Somebody voted this guy into office? Jeez.

  17. Very good to see this fake research get swatted down. Enjoyed hearing the professor react to JAMA’s clueless Tweet as he realized this could be a professional embarrassment for years.

    Now let’s see same rigor against the anti-cannabis propaganda coming from Northwestern, and their bi-annual pot induces brain damage research.

  18. I agree with Ed that gun-free zones have saved or created millions of lives, however this doesn’t mean it is applicable on all places. We should also be able to carry ours in other places.

  19. Obviously the problem with e-cigs is that they are insufficiently taxed. Solution on the way in 3…2…1…

  20. I don’t know about any other vapers I do not use a vape to disguise smoking. I am asthmatic and had it recommended by a medical professional to try and I love it. I can breathe better. Do we know everything there is to know no. But there is science that backs up what most vapers know. It’s better and not as damaging to your person as smoking.
    Are they 100%safe probably not but in my opinion it is safer than smoking. I get more carcinogens by breathing the air outside.

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