Irvine Should Ban E-Cigarettes in Our City Parks

teen-electronic-cigarette

Today’s New York Times has more bad news about teenagers and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).

The Times reports a “sharp rise in the use of e-cigarettes among teenagers.”  E-cigarette use among middle- and high school students “tripled from 2013 to 2014 . . bringing the share of high school students who use them to 13 percent — more than smoke traditional cigarettes. The sharp rise, together with a substantial increase in the use of hookah pipes, led to 400,000 additional young people using a tobacco product in 2014, the first increase in years . . .”

Last year, the Times cited a similar report of the Center for Disease Control of a sharp rise in e-cigarette use among previously nicotine-free youth.

And who are the major marketers and lobbyists for e-cigarettes?  The very same big tobacco companies that still sell cigarettes and that told us for years that there was no harm in cigarette smoking.

Last March, the Irvine City Council rejected a resolution to prohibit electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in city parks and recreational facilities.  Mayor Steven Choi and Council Members Jeffrey Lalloway and Christina Shea voted against the ban.

Evidence is mounting that e-cigarettes are detrimental to one’s health. Their use is opposed by the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. UC Irvine and the entire University of California system bans their use in all indoor and outdoor areas of a UC campus.

The American Lung Association says they are “very concerned about the potential health consequences of electronic cigarettes, as well as the unproven claims that they can be used to help smokers quit. There is presently no government oversight of these products and absent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation, there is no way for the public health, medical community or consumers to know what chemicals are contained in e-cigarettes or what the short and long term health implications might be. . . Also unknown is what the potential harm may be to people exposed to secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes. Two initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (a carcinogen) coming from those secondhand emissions. Other studies have shown that chemicals exhaled by users also contain formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other potential irritants. While there is a great deal more to learn about these products, it is clear that there is much to be concerned about, especially in the absence of FDA oversight.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that recent scientific data “confirms pediatricians’ concerns about e-cigarettes and their liquid nicotine refills: they are poisoning children at an alarming rate. . . These new statistics should compel our nation’s leaders to act now to protect children from these dangerous products.”

The conservative editorial page of the San Diego Union Tribune has called for the regulation of e-cigarettes just like tobacco, “prohibiting their use in restaurants, bars and other public places where smoking is barred,” calling such regulations  “common sense for all of California.”

Council Member Lalloway celebrated the Council’s decision in favor of e-cigarettes by saying he had confidence in “individuals and their ability to make their own [health] choices.”

For me, what’s at issue is our freedom  to enjoy Irvine’s parks and recreational facilities without breathing air polluted with second-hand e-cigarette chemicals.

I have no problem with adults smoking e-cigarettes in their own homes or on their own property or on the property of people who say it’s okay with them.

But I don’t want members of my family or yours — especially children — to be forced to inhale second-hand e-cigarette chemicals when they come to enjoy Irvine’s beautiful public parks and recreational facilities.

That’s where we should draw the line.