Most people, even smokers, now accept smoking is deadly. The Surgeon General's office reports that over 20 million people have died from smoking related illnesses since 1965. Science has proven this is probably due to the over 7,000 chemicals inside cigarettes, 70 of which have been linked to cancer. The Institute of Medicine reports that 2nd hand smoke increases the risk of heart disease by 25-30%.
In fact, the battle has been so successful that even the dangers of second hand smoke, which at one time were considered harmless, are now commonly taught in schools. Most people are now aware that exposure to second hand smoke may be just as harmful as first hand smoke.
Obviously there is still progress to be made. Efforts are ongoing to finish the job of getting America over its addiction to cigarettes. Yet the fight has advanced, somewhat to other areas. Not satisfied with just getting people to quit smoking, some lawmakers have moved on to 3rd hand smoke and e-cigarettes.
Surely there are chemicals emitted from the stagnant smoke that lingers on furniture and carpet on rooms and vehicles where someone recently smoked. Surely there are chemicals in e-cigarettes that are harmful, as the CDC has reported an increase in e-cig related calls to poison control offices.
While there are always advantages to public relations campaigns to encourage people to make wise choices, the battle against those individuals who continue to smoke even though they know it will kill them, and the battle to get people not to smoke e-cigs, and the battle to prevent someone from smelling cigarette smoke on someone's clothing, should be left to educational efforts.
Eli Lehrer recently wrote an article regarding this at National Review called "Diminishing Returns: The Campaign against (if you can believe it) third hand smoke." He states that some states have even outlawed smoking e-cigarettes in public, studies don't conclude there are no risks to the smoker, although they do conclude risks to bystanders are negligible.
The author says:
This isn’t to suggest that e-cigarettes are safe. They contain nicotine, a very addictive stimulant that, like all stimulants, has the potential to cause heart problems. The fact that they’re quite addictive and may have long-term risks nobody has discovered (they’ve been on the market for less than a decade) is good reason to keep them away from children and out of schools, daycare centers, and medical facilities. Although not perfect, newly issued FDA regulations, which would ban sales to minors nationally, take a much more sensible approach to e-cig regulation than most localities have to date. But, whatever their dangers, e-cigarettes aren’t the same as cigarettes. People who use them instead of tobacco cigarettes can expect at least some of the same health benefits as those who quit smoking. And nothing suggests that their vapor is anything like secondhand smoke. Indeed, almost all research indicates the opposite.He concludes:
The preponderance of the evidence indicates that both thirdhand smoke and e-cigarette vapor are the chemical equivalent of dirty looks. They may well be unpleasant or offensive to some people. But the public health case against them appears weak to nonexistent. Public policy would do well simply to leave them alone.I would tend to agree.
The main crux of the battle against first and second hand smoke was that the person smoking was trampling on my natural right to breathe fresh air. To extend this battle to third hand smoke and e-cigarettes would require taking the battle into a person's home, further trampling on personal liberties.
As Lehrer notes, "If thirdhand smoke or e-cig vapor caused the same ills, another campaign might be warranted. But they probably don’t."
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