Thursday, January 12, 2012

UCSF Discourages Smokers from Quitting By Banning Electronic Cigarette Use on All University Property

In an effort that will discourage many smokers who are trying to quit smoking using electronic cigarettes, the University of California San Francisco has adopted a new policy that prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes anywhere on university property, including outdoors.

University policy already prohibited smoking on the campus; now, electronic cigarettes have been added.

The Rest of the Story

Not only does this action discourage smokers from quitting, but it punishes people who are making a valiant effort to quit smoking using electronic cigarettes. Why punish these individuals? Instead, shouldn't we be encouraging smokers to quit and supporting them in their efforts? This is about as anti-public health of a policy as I can think of.

Moreover, the policy provides no documented public health benefits. There is no evidence that secondhand exposure to exhaled electronic cigarette vapor ("secondhand vaping"?) is hazardous to health, or that the exhaled vapor even contains any significant levels of chemicals that are hazardous.

Instead, the policy is part of a wave of activity in the tobacco control movement which is designed to discourage people from quitting smoking, unless they use the most ineffective methods available (FDA-approved pharmacotherapy). It is part of what is quickly becoming an abstinence-only movement, instructing ex-smokers who have quit using electronic cigarettes that they are better off returning to smoking than remaining ex-smokers by virtue of those electronic cigarettes.

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