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E-Cig Opponents Incur Self-Sustained Foot Injuries

Once again, prohibitionists have managed to shoot themselves in the foot. The outgoing city council of New York, in an effort to protect citizens from a practice that might be slightly harmful, e-cig use, is driving them back to a practice that is certainly overwhelmingly toxic, cigarette smoking.

Cause for dismay but not surprise: American prohibitionists have never been noted for their intelligence about actual social consequences. The prohibition of alcohol from 1918 to 1933 created huge criminal syndicates and caused tremendous social dislocations, but it did not reduce alcohol consumption one bit. Who can say what whirlwind this week's ruling will reap.

On Thursday, December 19, the council passed a ruling that will ban e-cig use everyplace that cigarettes are banned. Many ex- smokers who use e-cigs as a smoking cessation device (one that has been proven to be at least as effective as the leading approved device, the nicotine patch) will face a dilemma which will certainly push some of them back to cigarette smoking. Of those in that group, half will die as a result, so the Bloomberg council's last act will have a measurable death toll, just like Prohibition in the 1920s.

In order to justify this move, they have ignored scientific evidence (Burstyn, Farsalinos, The Lancet) and voluminous anecdotal evidence, ignored the voices of leading health authorities (Gilbert Ross, Michael Siegel, Clive Barnes, Amy Fairchild, James Cosgrove, J. F. Etter, Jeff Stier, others), and ignored the impassioned protest of numerous stakeholders who show signs of being a nascent social movement. They have put forward a rationale based on the unsubstantiated fantasy that e-cigs are a gateway to cigarette smoking just as the preliminary evidence (Wagener) is mounting in favor of the probability that they are a gateway away from it. It is time for them to stop saying there is no evidence, as it's just not true. Misstatements like this can be called ignorant mistakes for a while, but in time, once increasingly obvious evidence is still resolutely ignored, they become lies.

It is time for e-cig ban proponents to stop saying there is no evidence of the absence of harm (Burstyn to the contrary notwithstanding), the absence of a gateway to smoking (Wagener to the contrary notwithstanding), and the effectiveness in quit attempts (Farsalinos and The Lancet to the contrary notwithstanding). Bloomberg's health commissioner in New York said this again in the council meeting yesterday: "We just don't know..." he opined. "Yes, we do!" replied Gilbert Ross, the Medical and Executive Director of the American Council on Science and Health. Ross was ignored.

Advocates of this decision say they are erring on the side of caution. Since when is it "caution" to choose the certain death of many to avoid a slight possibility of a slight risk.