Tuesday, June 04, 2013

French Health Ministry to Ban Electronic Cigarette Use in Public Places Based on Uncertainty and Pure Speculation

According to a Reuters article, France is set to ban electronic cigarette use in public places even though it is not aware of any scientific evidence that these products harm bystanders. Apparently, France will ban electronic cigarette use in these places simply because of uncertainty over the precise nature of potential, unproven risks.

The other justification given for banning vaping in public places is that it mimics smoking and COULD lead to smoking initiation: "'This is no orlarldinary product because it encourages mimicking and could promote taking up smoking,' said Touraine, who announced her plans at a news conference."

According to the article: "France will ban electronic cigarette smoking in public places by imposing the same curbs enforced since 2007 to combat tobacco smoking, Health Minister Marisol Touraine said on Friday. Amid mounting global concern over the public health implications of so-called e-cigarettes, Touraine said they faced the same fate as traditional ones: a ban on smoking in public spaces and sales to minors and a blackout on media advertising. ... The near-odorless electronic alternative - battery-driven devices that allow users inhale odorless nicotine-laced vapor rather than smoke - are gaining ground in no-go zones such as bars, cafes, trains, waiting rooms and offices. A government-commissioned report said this week that around 500,000 people in France had turned to e-cigarettes, which are designed to look like cigarettes although some come in different colors, and recommended a crackdown on public use."

The Rest of the Story 

My feeling is that the government should not use coercive interventions – such as bans – unless there is strong scientific evidence that a substantial public health problem exists. So far, I have seen no data to suggest that “passive vaping” represents any significant hazard. I think there needs to be more than just pure speculation for the government to take coercive action. The French government presents absolutely no evidence that secondhand vaping represents a public health threat.

The second justification given for the vaping ban is that it might encourage mimicking and could - hypothetically - promote smoking initiation. But again, there is absolutely no evidence that this is the case. Two large studies have had difficulty finding any substantial number of youth nonsmokers who regularly use electronic cigarettes, despite their presence on the market for at least six years and despite the fact that youth experimentation with this product has already occurred.

Pure speculation should not stand as a valid basis for coercive government action, in my opinion.
The same justification used by the French government - pure speculation - is also being used by Dr. Stan Glantz to promote a ban on electronic cigarette use in public places in California. On a KQED radio segment about California legislation to ban e-cigarette use in public places, Dr. Glantz defended the legislation by speculating that there "might" be a slight risk associated with these products. But he presented no evidence that as actually used, they pose any threat to bystanders.

In my opinion, these efforts to pass coercive legislation based on pure speculation - devoid of any scientific evidence of risk or harm - undermine the integrity of public health. What these anti-smoking advocates - such as Dr. Glantz - are admitting is that they would support 100% smoke-free laws even if there were no scientific evidence that secondhand smoke is harmful.

I'm not willing to adopt that position. My support for smoking bans is based on the substantial scientific evidence demonstrating that it is a significant public health hazard that is causing suffering, disease, and death.

Dr. Glantz' and others' support for banning vaping in public places without any evidence of risk or harm undermines the integrity of public health because it indicates that we would be willing to ban smoking in public places even in the absence of evidence that it is harmful. I believe that there needs to be a higher standard for coercive government action.

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