In an article published in Tobacco Control, BMJ Journals, Dr. Simon Chapman and his colleagues spoke in favour of banning the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces as according to them we do not have sufficient data yet, to let us know whether second hand vapour is harmful or not.
“Those advocating for vaping to be allowed in smoke-free public places centre their case on gossamer-thin evidence that vaping emissions are all but benign and therefore pose negligible risks to others akin to inhaling steam from showers, kettles or saunas. This is likely to be baseless. Unlike vapourised water, electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) emissions comprise nicotine, carbonyls, metals, organic volatile compounds, besides particulate matter, and putative carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. … Importantly, the short time span since the advent of ENDS and the latency of candidate respiratory and cardiovascular diseases that may be caused or exacerbated by ambient exposure to ENDS emissions preclude definitive risk inference. Taking the current immature evidence as a proof of safety and using it to advocate for policy that allows ENDS indoors could prove reckless.” wrote the authors.
The excessive caution reserved for vaping
Commenting on this piece, public health expert Dr. Michael Siegel called this approach “an interesting twist from the usual reasoning in public health”, adding that normally it is struggle to ban harmful substances even when the data against is substantial, but vaping always seems to be the exception to the rule.
“I thought it was the other way around. I always thought that to justify interfering with individual rights and freedom as well as business owners’ autonomy, we had to demonstrate that there was a substantial public health hazard. These anti-vaping advocates suggest that it is the other way around. In order not to ban vaping, we have to prove that it is not harmful. In my view, this is antithetical to the justification for public health regulation,” said Siegel.
Many experts on the topic would point out that several studies have been carried out, which suggest that the amount of toxic chemicals found in secondhand vapour is in such small quantities, that it is insignificant. Siegel also added that the only evidence that this article’s authors are pointing towards to support their argument, are the high levels of particulate exposure that were measured at a “vapefest,” where there were hundreds of vapers simultaneously using their devices in an enclosed space.
Bans should be implemented only if health hazards are proven
Electronic cigarettes have been proven to be at least 95% safer than regular cigarettes, and studies have shown that they are the preferred smoking cessation method of most smokers since vaping mimics the action of smoking. Dr. Siegel added that it is unacceptable to implement a policy that interferes with one’s freedom, (and in this case, possibly with one’s efforts to quit smoking), when there is no data proving that the products carry health risks. “We don’t just ban everything that may or may not have significant risks and wait until behaviours are proven to be benign before we allow them.” concluded Siegel.