OUR OPINION: E-cigarette ban justified based on health groups

The Tupelo City Council’s ban on public use of e-cigarettes logically follows an older ban on regular cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking in public venues like bars, restaurants and other public places.

The e-cigarette ban, which has drawn strong comments from proponents and opponents, makes an exception for use in stores making at least 50 percent of their sales on e-cigarette products. Regular smokers cannot smoke cigarettes or other, similar tobacco products in those establishments. Those products remain banned in public places but they are not illegal on private property and in homes.

It is not correct that the American Heart Association has issued a general approval of e-cigarette use. A story that broke during the weekend said the AHA backs e-cigarette use as a last resort to stop smoking, and that is a far cry from an endorsement of the product. The American Cancer Society “quietly took a similar stance” in May, published reports said.

The AHA, in fact, on Monday issued strong recommendations about e-cigarettes:

• E-cigarettes that contain nicotine should be regulated as tobacco products, including under state smoke-free laws.

• Recommended a U.S. ban on e-cigarettes for minors, strict laws on marketing and advertising the products and a ban on flavorings.

“They should be included in smoke-free laws,” Dr. Elliott Antman, president of the American Heart Association, said in a video statement. “An important reason for this is it’s not clear if the vapor from electronic cigarettes is safe. We do know that nicotine can have harmful effects not only on the user of an electronic cigarette, but also those who are exposed to high concentrations of nicotine in the vapors if they are in an enclosed space.”

The policy statement was published in the heart journal, Circulation.

Opponents also cite a ban as an effective way to discourage children and adolescents from beginning to use e-cigarettes.

The hot-button issue had been tabled several times in Tupelo, but the ban passed with a vote of 5-1 last week. Councilwoman Nettie Davis was the only dissenting vote.

The ordinance is expected to take effect in September.