Rainbow Health Initiative comes out against e-cigs

RHI supports Hennepin County's move to crack down on e-cigs.
RHI supports Hennepin County's move to crack down on e-cigs.

After we published our post about Hennepin County's move to ban e-cigarettes from county property yesterday, Tiffany Paulson, communications and marketing manager for the Rainbow Health Initiative, passed along a letter to the editor penned by her organization, which is devoted to "improving the health of LGBTQ communities" by "expanding access to and availability of culturally competent care."

SEE ALSO: Lynden's Soda Fountain busted for selling candy cigarettes

The letter succinctly makes the type of anti-e-cig argument businesses and public officials are using to justify cracking down on where "vaping" can lawfully occur.

Here it is:

Rainbow Health Initiative is a community-based non-profit organization committed to advancing the health and wellness of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities through research, education and advocacy. Working with these communities, whom have been targeted by tobacco companies, we see the subsequent higher rates of tobacco use and health disparities that result from this use...

E-cigarettes are frequently advertised as safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes, or as smoking cessation tools. While e-cigarettes contain fewer chemicals than traditional cigarettes, users still inhale nicotine which has health risks of increased blood pressure and heart rate. E-cigarette cartridges both with and without nicotine have been found to have harmful chemicals, metals, and silicates in the vapor, and the nanoparticles emitted by e-cigarettes can penetrate deeply into the lungs, affecting non-users through second-hand exposure to vapor. E-cigarettes are currently unregulated products, leaving a great deal unknown about not only the health risks, but also about product manufacturing and safety.

There isn't sufficient scientific research that definitively concludes electronic cigarettes are effective tools to quit smoking. They haven't been authorized as stop smoking devices by the FDA. If anything, some early research shows people trying to quit who have used e-cigarettes are less likely to stay quit than people who used other cessation methods. [A recent Star Tribune] article cites an Italian study that claims e-cigarettes can help quit smoking. However, there have been serious concerns raised about the study design and statistical analysis, casting doubt on the claim that e-cigarettes are effective cessation tools.

The most current and comprehensive overview of e-cigarettes states "to date, there is not a single study available based on reliable methods (randomized controlled study) with a large number of participants and sufficiently long observation period to provide evidence of the efficacy of the electronic cigarette as a cessation device." E-cigarettes are new and potentially less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but they still achieve big tobacco's goal of hooking consumers on nicotine in order to turn a profit.

Like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes should be banned in public spaces. There isn't enough information to ensure there aren't public health risks, and seeing people using an e-cigarette in non-smoking areas undermines the importance of smoke-free zones. Rainbow Health Initiative applauds Parasole for taking action to ban e-cigarettes from their establishments. Any other restaurants, organizations, or venues looking for assistance in creating and implementing a policy relating to tobacco and/or e-cigarette use are welcome to contact Rainbow Health Initiative at 612-206-3180.

On the other side of the issue, e-cig supporters argue crackdowns like the one announced by Hennepin County don't provide any sort of public health benefit while needlessly making life more difficult for those trying to quit smoking.

"People smoke for the nicotine, they die from the smoke," David Sweanor, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who works on tobacco and health issues, told the CBC.

Likewise, Dr. Peter Selby, chief of the addictions division at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, argues government shouldn't get in the way of people who want to inhale smokeless tobacco unless e-cigs are demonstrated to have some sort of negative health consequence.

While acknowledging "we need a framework to study [e-cigs and their health implications] and understand it so we can actually tell smokers it is a safer option," Selby said, "Right now, it looks like we've got our head in the sand. If you take the nicotine out of the tobacco and only give people nicotine, the potential harm is likely very, very small."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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