Thank You for Vaping: Libertarians vs. New York City's E-Cig Ban

Are e-cigs the most important public health breakthrough of our time?


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"[E-cigarettes] are just as important for public health as childhood vaccines, antibiotics, sewer treatment, and water treatment," says anti-smoking activist Bill Godshall of Smokefree Pennsylvania. "And [it's] one of the craziest situations because the public health authorities [want to] ban them."

On April 28, 2014, Reason, the Museum of Sex, and Henley Vaporium co-hosted a party to celebrate how e-cigarettes are saving lives—and to flout a ridiculous new law in New York that bans their use in many public places. (More on that in a moment.)

Vaping at the Museum of Sex ||| Credit: Anthony Collins
Credit: Anthony Collins

E-cigarettes, which are battery-powered devices that replace carcinogenic smoke with water vapor, have proven to be remarkably effective at helping habitual smokers quit tobacco cigarettes. While we don't know yet if e-cigarettes has any long-term adverse health consequences, it's highly unlikely that they're as dangerous as regular smokes.

"[S]imple common sense would tell us that inhaling their ingredients, as compared to inhaling the thousands of chemicals from tobacco combustion (the smoke), is highly likely to be less harmful," writes Dr. Gilbert Ross of the American Council on Science and Health.

And yet federal regulators are determined to severely limit the use of e-cigarettes. In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempted to block their sale altogether, but a federal judge intervened. On April 24, 2014, the FDA proposed regulations that would require e-cigarettes manufacturers to obtain

Ex-Smoker Amier Carmel ||| Credit: Anthony Collins
Credit: Anthony Collins

the agency's approval for each of their products, a process that Ross estimates could cost over a million dollars and would likely drive the small players (which currently dominate the industry) out of business. This would dramatically curtail the variety of e-cigarettes products on the market, thus limiting the options of smokers looking for an alternative to regular cigarettes.

New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, along with other cities, states, and counties have passed laws banning the use of e-cigarettes in offices, bars, parks, and other public places. These laws make little sense, argues Ross, because "there are no toxins in so-called second-hand vapor." E-cigarettes generally emit no odor, and the vapor they give off rapidly dissipates.

At the stroke of midnight on the evening of the Reason event, the New York City e-cigarettes ban took effect, giving attendees an opportunity to openly flout the law.

Click here to read Jacob Sullum's take on the FDA proposed regulations.

Click here for more photos of the event.

About 3:15.

Shot, produced, and edited by Jim Epstein. Photos by Anthony Collins.

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