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A GRAVE DAY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NEW YORK CITY

By Leticia Remauro:

Today the ill conceived campaign to treat electronic cigarettes as illegal and harmful objects planted its roots in New York City as the “Electronic Cigarette ban” went into effect.

As written and adopted by the New York City Council and signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg during his last days in office, this “Electronic Cigarette ban” prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes any place where tobacco products are prohibited in order to protect the general public (from potentially harmful effects which cannot be quantified because electronic cigarettes have not been regulated by the FDA).

What the law will do in reality is cause those of us who used electronic cigarettes as a cessation tool to help us quit smoking, to give up our daily struggle and return to our tobacco addiction.

Most people will tell you that smoking is an addiction – and though humans have been smoking tobacco for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that we learned of the harmful side effects caused by smoking tobacco products.

For the past three decades, the United States Department of Health and other government agencies have been trying to get Americans to kick the habit by issuing warnings about the health risks associated with smoking tobacco products.  Still smoking continued to rise among teens and adults alike. 

It wasn’t until recently, when we learned about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, that Americans began taking these warning seriously. 

Let’s face it – when told that smoking could be harmful to their health, most smokers ignored the warning and continued on with their habit, but when they realized that their habit was encroaching on the health of others, they were willing to try to quit for the sake of their friends and family. 

Patches, gum, hypnotism and pills were the favorite forms of smoking cessation for a very long time.  Some people succeeded using these aides, but most did not.

In 2007, the electronic cigarette was introduced to the American market.  This product was designed to simulate an actual tobacco cigarette without the burn, ash or second hand smoke.  Many smokers were wary of this new product but as time went on, more and more began choosing it as an acceptable alternative to regular tobacco.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2014, the number of Americans who reported smoking tobacco products in 2007 was 24%.  In 2014 that number dropped to 20% - a reduction of 4 percentage points.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

We have also seen a reduction in teen smoking during that time period.  According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health – in 2007, 12.5% of 12th graders reported smoking.  In 2014 that number dropped to 8%.  Among 10th graders smoking has been reduced by half within that same time frame.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

The tobacco industry generates more that $100 billion dollars in sales per year.  Electronic cigarette sales average $2 billion per year.  When you consider that the cost of smoking electronic cigarettes is approximately 10% of the cost of smoking tobacco products, one could conclude that there are nearly as many people using electronic cigarettes as there are people smoking tobacco products.  Following that logic one can also assume that the people using electronic cigarettes would have otherwise been smoking tobacco products if electronic cigarettes were not available to them.

Working off those assumptions, one can hypothesize that if electronic cigarettes are treated with equal disdain as their tobacco counterpart that former smokers who used electronic cigarettes to help them quit might give up their daily struggle with their tobacco addiction and return to the sidewalks with their peers to light up.

Considering the above information, I feel it is safe to say that today the New York City Council and the Mayor of the City of New York have together handed down a possible death sentence to thousands of innocent New Yorkers who have been struggling to overcome their tobacco addiction.  As a former smoker for more than two decades, I can honestly tell you that if it were not for the use of electronic cigarettes, my dozenth attempt to quit smoking would have ended in the same failure as the eleven attempts before it. 

If I am now forced to stand out on the curb to use my electronic cigarette, being ostracized with the same zeal and vigor as I was when I ensconced myself in a cloud of second hand smoke, then my battle against my addiction will seem hardly worth the effort.

There may be those willing to criticize this article for containing too many assumptions and hypotheses.  My reply is simple.  The FDA, governments throughout America and anti-smoking advocates have been using nothing more than hypotheses and assumptions in their campaign to have electronic cigarettes outlawed.        

 

It is time for the people of New York City to recognize that the word “government” is a verb, not a noun.  In order to have government we must participate in it.  Today I am calling on our local government to rethink this electronic cigarette ban.  We have come too far in our fight against tobacco addiction to backslide because of presumption, assumption and innuendo.