Smok­ing ban must ex­tend to in­clude e-cig­a­rettes

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By David Lee Page Ed­i­tor: duqiong­[email protected]­al­

Con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing eci­garettes have been ris­ing. A video shared on so­cial me­dia quickly went vi­ral in late July, in which a young woman smok­ing an e-cig­a­rette aboard a Bei­jing sub­way train, ar­gued with an old gentle­man who was try­ing to per­suade her to stop smok­ing.

“You are so ig­no­rant. I’m not smok­ing a cig­a­rette!” The woman an­grily re­buked the man. A se­cu­rity guard who sup­pos­edly main­tained or­der on­board the sub­way, stood near the ar­gu­ment, but he failed in his at­tempts to per­suade the woman. Two other women who were sit­ting be­side the smok­ing women stood up and left the video scene, ap­par­ently an­noyed by ei­ther the smoke or the ar­gu­ment.

De­spite the protest by the old gentle­man, the woman con­tin­ued to smoke the e-cig­a­rette de­fi­antly. She got off the train car­riage when ar­riv­ing at her sta­tion, ap­par­ently con­tin­u­ing the en­joy­ment of the smoke even in­side the sub­way sta­tion.

A smok­ing ban has long been an­nounced in the Bei­jing sub­way sys­tem. Bei­jing has also is­sued its mu­nic­i­pal to­bacco con­trol or­di­nance. How­ever, the Chi­nese words “jinzhi xiyan” in the reg­u­la­tion text are open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Lit­er­ally, the Chi­nese words mean “ban the use of smoke,” but it is un­clear whether the ban cov­ers “e-cig­a­rette smoke” on top of “tra­di­tional cig­a­rette smoke.”

The same am­bigu­ous prob­lem af­fects other cities and ur­ban pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tems as well. Smok­ing bans were an­nounced years ago when e-cig­a­rettes were nonex­is­tent or barely ap­pear­ing in the Chi­nese mar­ket. In re­cent years, with clever mar­ket­ing, e-cig­a­rettes have risen as a fash­ion­able way to “en­joy smok­ing,” cater­ing to young met­ro­pol­i­tans across China, many of whom wrongly be­lieve e-cig­a­rettes are to­tally harm­less, with some even proudly tout­ing va­p­ing as a way of mod­ern met­ro­pol­i­tan life.

I’m wor­ried by the clever vape mar­ket­ing cam­paign that has cer­tainly led to a sit­u­a­tion whereby ba­sic facts about e-cig­a­rettes evade the gen­eral pub­lic. To cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence that mim­ics tra­di­tional smok­ing, an e-liq­uid that gen­er­ally con­sists of propy­lene gly­col, glyc­erin, and, most im­por­tantly, nico­tine, is used.

Good sci­ence tells us smok­ers only get the max­i­mum health ben­e­fit if they com­pletely quit all nico­tine use, even though e-cig­a­rettes gen­er­ally have less nico­tine con­tents than tra­di­tional cig­a­rettes. It is also worth not­ing that e-cig­a­rette mak­ers even add cer­tain fla­vors to their prod­ucts so as to bet­ter en­tice con­sumers who would ei­ther try out or switch to a new smok­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Some may ar­gue that e-cig­a­rettes

of­fer a cred­i­ble step to­ward smok­ing ces­sa­tion, and cur­rently avail­able re­search seems to prove this, par­tic­u­larly when heavy smok­ers com­pletely stop tra­di­tional cig­a­rettes and use e-cig­a­rettes in­stead. How­ever, the aerosolized va­por from e-cig­a­rettes still rep­re­sents a source of sec­ond­hand smoke that poses real dan­ger to peo­ple’s health.

With the am­bi­gu­ity of the cur­rent smok­ing ban, many e-cig­a­rette smok­ers be­lieve the ban does not ap­ply to them, and some even be­lieve that smok­ing e-cig­a­rettes is a sign of higher level of con­sumer so­phis­ti­ca­tion, as was the case of the ar­ro­gantly ig­no­rant young woman on the Bei­jing sub­way.

I would urge sub­way au­thor­i­ties and city plan­ners to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion and ad­dress the am­bi­gu­ity prob­lem by ban­ning e-cig­a­rettes out­right. Ac­tu­ally, civil avi­a­tion au­thor­i­ties and CRH trains have long ex­plic­itly banned e-cig­a­rettes, and the prac­tice has been well re­ceived by the gen­eral pub­lic with­out any con­tro­versy.

Un­der­stand­ably, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of an out­right ban takes time. There­fore, when cur­rent reg­u­la­tions are vague and take time to re­vise, con­cerned ci­ti­zens and pub­lic health or­ga­ni­za­tions must raise aware­ness about e-cig­a­rettes.

To turn the tide against many years of suc­cess­ful, smart mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, the bot­tom line is that the myth of fash­ion­able met­ro­pol­i­tan e-cig­a­rette smok­ers who get to en­joy some nico­tine-stim­u­lated plea­sure with­out any health haz­ard has to end.

The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Lu Ting/GT

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