Editorial: The E-Cigarette Problem

E-CigarettesFrom the Dallas News – http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/20140226-editorial-the-e-cigarette-problem.ece

School districts in North Texas and across the country are grappling with a new problem related to the growing popularity of e-cigarettes. Manufacturers are marketing to children with a lineup of nicotine-free, tobacco-less electronic cigarettes that dispense little more than flavored water vapor.

Kids like it because it tastes good and lets them imitate the adult act of smoking. And since the technology is so new, school districts have yet to update their rules on whether the devices are permissible.

On Jan. 6, Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles notified all employees that e-cigarettes are included under the district’s tobacco use ban. Any chemical-dispensing devices “that produce the same flavor or physical effect of nicotine substances” are prohibited for staffers on DISD property.

For students, DISD policy bans “possessing, smoking or using tobacco or related products.” But since e-cigarettes can come in a nicotine-free variety of flavors, the tobacco ban doesn’t work. District policy also bans possession of any electronic devices used for entertainment, such as music players and hand-held game consoles. But e-cigarettes don’t quite fit that category.

When challenged by teachers, students are protesting, saying the student code of conduct isn’t clear. And they’re right. DISD says it currently uses its electronic devices ban to block e-cigarette possession but plans much clearer wording in next year’s rulebook. All Texas school districts should spell out such bans unequivocally.

Flavored, non-nicotine e-cigarettes are obviously designed as a gateway to the adult world of smoking — the modern-day Joe Camel. Parents should tell their kids to stay away from e-cigarettes, nicotine or not. Schools should ban e-cigarettes because they have nothing to do with education.

But what about adults? The Frisco City Council recently voted to include e-cigarettes in its ban on smoking in public places. This newspaper supports the tobacco-smoking ban but feels an e-cigarette ban is premature.

The harmful effects of tobacco smoking are indisputable. If people choose to smoke and wreck their health in private, that’s their choice. In public places, smoking infringes on others’ rights to breathe clean air. So far, there is little if any scientific evidence indicating a second-hand smoke danger from e-cigarettes. Why ban them?

Nicotine is a highly addictive but legal drug. Adult e-cigarettes are little more than nicotine dispensers. They might be healthier for users than inhaling tar and other hazardous contaminants in conventional cigarette smoke, but no one should be fooled into thinking that “vaping” is risk-free. Initial studies indicate e-cigarette smokers might be inhaling formaldehyde and an ingredient used in antifreeze.

To ban them on the mere suspicion of a general-public harm only fuels complaints of government overreach. Until science proves a second-hand danger, some regulatory restraint is in order.

Read the original article here: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/20140226-editorial-the-e-cigarette-problem.ece

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