After reading Larry Jackson’s post on e-cigarettes at Political Realities I was curious to know more about them, specifically the reasons why some local and state governments, including Oklahoma, have banned their use on government property. Governor Mary Fallin created a furor last month when she issued an executive order banning the use of e-cigarettes on Oklahoma state property. One look at the comments section of the NewsOK.com article about the ban makes it clear her decision is not popular at all. At least not with those who comment on such articles. I have yet to discuss the ban with my coworkers. Full disclosure – I am a state government employee.
Despite the less-than-compelling explanation given by the Governor’s office for the ban, from what I have read of e-cigarettes I come down on the side of agreeing completely with the ban. I don’t believe there is currently enough information available on the harmfulness of the vapors. Those who support the use of e-cigarettes are very vocal in saying it is just water vapor and there is nothing harmful about them, but I have seen too many articles indicating otherwise to just blindly accept that they are harmless. The American Lung Association supports the banning of e-cigarettes in public. Beyond their concern that the use of e-cigarettes would lead to other tobacco use, Erika Sward, vice president of the ALA, said, “We don’t want to have people now exposed to e-cigarette second-hand emissions until we know more about them.” Even the co-owner of e-cigarette maker inLife, Thomas Kiklas, agrees with banning them in public. He said, “The FDA says they are to be regulated as tobacco products and as such, any tobacco regulations should also apply to e-cigarettes at this point in time.”
Several years ago when governments began banning cigarettes in restaurants, I was opposed to that. Although I have never been a smoker and I find the habit disgusting and stinky, I have always believed that property and business owners should have the right to decide what happens on their property. If a restaurant or business decides to allow smoking it is the public’s right to decide whether or not to patronize that establishment. Likewise, a business owner should have the right to dictate to employees what they can and cannot do on their property. That being the case, why should the head of the state government not have the right to determine what happens on state property? Why should a restaurant owner have the right to allow or ban smoking in their restaurant but the current ‘CEO’, if you will, of the state government does not have the right to do the same for state offices? The next governor is certainly free to rescind the executive order banning the use of e-cigarettes, should he or she choose to do so. But to say the government has no right to ban them, in my opinion, is to also say a business owner should not have the right. I certainly welcome dissenting opinions in comments.
Lastly, I will pose a question I once heard in a conversation. Suppose you are on a cross-continental flight in seat B; sandwiched between the window seat and the aisle seat. The occupants of those seats are e-cigarette users and ‘vape’ away through the entire flight. Would that bother you?