The Strange Rush To Ban E-cigarettes

From The Calgary Herald by David Reevely

Ontario’s health authorities are getting very anxious to stop nicotine addicts from using e-cigarettes, but it’s hard to say why.

Toronto’s board of health voted Monday night, unanimously, to demand the provincial government treat “vaping,” as sucking on nicotine vapour is called, like smoking. If the province won’t forbid it in most public places by February, the board says it will.

Between the size of a pen and a kazoo, an e-cigarette uses battery power to vaporize a flavoured, nicotine-laced fluid. Suck the stuff in and you get a hit of the addictive element in cigarettes, minus all the gunk that comes out of burning dried tobacco leaves. All the fun of smoking minus the emphysema and cancer, is the idea.

But e-cigarettes are new and very lightly studied. The composition of the liquids they vaporize can vary a lot. Some analyses have found some of the harmful components of tobacco in some samples. Other common components, like propylene glycol, are probably OK in small amounts but nobody’s studied the effects of inhaling them for years. It’s hard to believe the vapour could be as bad for you as real cigarette smoke, but the science isn’t definitive. It won’t be for decades.

(Second-hand vapour, though it looks like cigarette smoke in pictures, doesn’t hang in the air. It doesn’t even really smell. Toronto’s health officer, while calling for e-cigarettes to be treated like real cigarettes, acknowledges second-hand vapour has only traces of the stuff that makes cigarette smoke so foul.)

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