E-cigarette Debate Heats Up in Indiana
Indiana’s legislators have been engaged in a heated debate about electronic cigarettes as they try to decide how to handle the state’s surging smoking rates and sudden spike in public ecig use. At a recent public hearing, the legislative committee argued over the best approach to discourage smoking.
Recent reports show that 23 percent of Indiana’s adults are smokers, a number far higher than the national average. Some lawmakers want to see the current no-smoking law extended to cover bars, casinos, and other adult-only locations. Other public health officials argued that banning smoking in these locations would only further drain the economy. Some suggested that the best approach would be increasing taxes on cigarettes, making the habit more expensive and less accessible to teens.
One of the biggest arguments centered on electronic cigarettes and whether they should be included in current smoking prohibitions and taxation. Vaping supporters argued that ecigs are a smart alternative that will actually help reduce state smoking rates in the long run. “Every time a smoker switches to these products, the public health benefits,” explained Greg Conley, President of the American Vaping Association.
Former smokers like Shadi Khoury told lawmakers that ecigs were the most useful smoking cessation tools available to date. Khoury managed to kick his smoking habit two years ago with the help of ecigarettes. Evan McMahon, the chairman of Hoosier Vapers, agreed with Khoury. “Instead of adding a tax, the state of Indiana should be embracing and rewarding people for switching to vaping,” McMahon said.
Still other public health advocates argued that vaping is no safer than smoking. Brianna Herndon of the American Cancer Society criticized vaping as dangerous. “Let me be clear. These products are not approved cessation devices, and there’s a lack of evidence to date demonstrating that e-cigarette products are safe.”
The biggest criticism of ecigs centered on nicotine content, but nicotine is not the deadly part of smoking. Tobacco is what kills thousands of people and ecigarettes are tobacco-free. By equating ecigs with tobacco use just because they contain nicotine, lawmakers are ignoring common logic. “It’s like calling pizza a vegetable because it has tomatoes in it,” said McMahon.
Traci Kennedy of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights insisted that it’s too soon to recommend ecigarettes as a safe alternative for smokers. “We don’t feel the public should have to be the guinea pig,” she said.
So far, Indiana lawmakers are yet to reach an agreement on how to handle the growing smoking problem. What do you think is the best approach to discourage smoking?