Ban electronic cigarettes in public places

Published Jan 15, 2014 at 6:54 am (Updated Jan 9, 2014 at 11:23 am)

Never let it be said that the American tobacco companies are down and out. As interest in the traditional nicotine addiction wanes, a new plague is being unleashed: electronic cigarettes! The conglomerates are rushing to make this product an accepted and established part of American culture before the Food and Drug Administration is able to act to regulate or ban it.

Electronic cigarettes, we are told, provide a harmless means of satisfying the individual who craves nicotine, the device enabling liquid nicotine vapors to be ingested. Is there any American naive enough to believe anything that the tobacco barons tell us? Do we not have fresh in our minds the 1994 debacle in which one tobacco company executive after another, under oath, told Congress that nicotine is not addictive? Since that day of infamy, to quote an old Virginia Slims television advertisement, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”

New York City, often in the forefront of beneficial social change, has acted to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public places, including parks. Chicago and Los Angeles are next up to consider such measures. Will Pennsylvania follow? Knowing the composition of our often-Neanderthal and molasses-like state government, I doubt it.

My state representative, John Maher, a smoker, was on the wrong side of history when he voted against the Clean Indoor Act. If he had his druthers, smokers would continue to be able to inflict their lethal drug addiction on their fellow diners and workers. To my knowledge, Representative Maher has never repudiated or explained his vote, which I must assume was cast in his selfish interest and with a complete disregard of the provision of the State Constitution which guarantees the public the right to unpolluted air. I am certain that if a measure to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes were ever to make it to the floor of the State Senate, it would receive serious consideration from my senator, Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington).

I have already encountered inconsiderate, self-absorbed individuals who believe that they have the right to attend Pirates games at PNC Park while enjoying their electronic cigarettes and despite the admonition before every game that “smoking is not permitted anywhere in PNC Park.” I have asked the director of ballpark operations to act, and he has assured me that this is an issue that is on Major League Baseball’s plate to address this off-season. I cannot imagine that the Pirates, a family-friendly organization promoting a family-friendly game, will condone smoke being blown in the faces of fans sitting shoulder to shoulder with others.

Perhaps Pennsylvania will someday catch up to other, more enlightened jurisdictions by taking public health and the State Constitution seriously, but I shall not hold my breath waiting for it to happen!

Oren Spiegler

Upper St. Clair

Ban electronic cigarettes in public places

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