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LA Stands Firm against Harm Reduction

I will not support anything – anything – that might attract one new smoker

Los Angeles has become the fourth major American city which, along with five states and several smaller municipalities, has banned use of electronic cigarettes in public space, including bars, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

Washington DC, New York and Chicago are the other three. Debate in Council chambers was acrimonious and soon became personal.

Several advocates on both sides of the issue spoke of personal experiences and of relatives whose stories allegedly support the evidence on one side or the other. Councilperson Nury Martinez supported the restrictions, citing her husband's difficulties in trying to quit smoking, and for some reason appearing to believe his problems support the case against vaping instead of for it. She explained that if secondhand vapor turns out later on to be safe, we can always reverse the ordinance then. She does not say what municipal condolences should be given to the loved ones of smokers who die in the interim because of our delay.

Councilman Mitch O'Farrell recalled his youthful experiences as a restaurant server, when he had no choice but to inhale secondhand smoke, but giving no evidence except his emotions for his belief that vapor is no different.

Councilman Joe Buscaino headed up an effort to exempt bars from the restriction, citing the success of his cousin Anthony at quitting smoking through vaping. Buscaino's bid was supported by 5 other councilmen, not enough for success. Council President Herb Wesson argued for the restrictions with passion, citing the fact that he himself started smoking at 15 and has never been able to quit, again for inexplicable reasons seeing the tragedy of his own smoking as an argument against e-cigarettes instead of for them. He seems to fear the dreaded "gateway effect" for young people. "I will not support anything – anything – that might attract one new smoker," he proclaimed, nonetheless giving no evidence for the fear that e-cigarettes might do so.

Emotive justifications also seem to lie behind the support of LA Health Department Director Johnathan Fielding, who argued that e-cigs might undo years of efforts to "stigmatize smoking", suggesting that preaching against immoral behavior has a higher priority than the fostering of public health at his agency.

Dr. Tim McAfee of the Centers for Disease Control was present on behalf of the restrictions, fretting evidence-less as usual about secondhand vapor.

Jeff Stier of the National Center for Public Policy Research was on hand speaking against the restrictions, as were paid lobbyists representing Njoy E-Cigs. Doug MacEachern, a journalist from nearby Arizona, points out in an article in AZ: Central that the municipality of Los Angeles has the highest concentration of hookah parlors of any city in the US.