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"E-cigarettes are dramatically less harmful than combustible cigarettes. ", TJ Miller, Attorney General, Iowa Department of Justice

whatever number is correct, e-cigarettes are dramatically less harmful than combustible cigarettes.

After a strong pressure put by a local grassroots organization, the Ames City Council revisited the topic of regulating electronic nicotine vaporizers in the city in early December. An issue that many people see as an issue of public safety (the Cons), while others see it as over-regulation by local government (the Pros). A strong debate opposed the Pros and the Cons during the day of the Council during which members showed opposite conclusions from different scientific studies. Councilman Peter Orazem said he would support creating a regulations that would limit the use of vaporizers in areas where children are present but when it came to adults, he was hesitant to create an ordinance without “real compelling evidence” of the absence of long-term effects.

“If the city and university can keep the community away from potentially harmful e-cigarette and its secondhand effects — at least until we better understand it — it is the best course of action.” -Grassroots Healthiest Ames
The Ames City Council voted to direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance to ban the use of e-cigarette in all public spaces. Members voted 5-1 to adopt the ban that will mirror Iowa’s Smokefree Air Act, already in place and the typical “better safe than sorry” applied in this case. The City Council vote came just one month after Iowa State’s Professional and Scientific Council voted to support the inclusion of e-cigarette in the Smoke-Free Campus policy on January 1, 2016.

In the middle of such confusion, the Councilman Tim Gartin said “My preference would be that the Legislature would take this up. We’re ill-equipped to know how to navigate the health journal and studies”. In clear, he would like to see the state government take up the issue and create a state regulation, instead of an ordinance being created on the local level. An it is in this context that the Attorney General, Thomas J. Miller, from the Iowa department of justice delivered a statement on electronic cigarette key facts. It is not a justice decision but it can be considered as a recommendation to make a good interpretation of the facts in future cases.

The Attorney General acknowledges the benefit of the e-cigarette compared to smoking tobacco and poses a 95% risk reduction that ressembles that of PHE’s review. The 95% is not the only figure that he provides, he also quotes another source that gives a risk reduction interval between 90% and 98%. In the second paragraph, he deplores that e-cigarette is considered equally harmfull as burnt tobacco and he attributes this fact to a strong pressure, without identifying its source, to demonize the device. To him, misinformation is leading to misstatements: “People making misstatements about e-cigarettes have the best of intentions—to keep kids from being addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes.”

However, he recognizes that taking the kids in hostage in the middle of such a debate is not smart: “adults misleading kids to get them to do what we want has always been a failed strategy.” He confirms a misconception about the prevalence of teen e-cigarette smoking. A misconception that is taking place as the information is summarized and propagates in the media from its scientific source to finally become a counter-argument with respect to its initial aim. A good example is provided by the Attorney himself in the last paragraph of his statement, indicating that he demonstrates a robust knowledge around this topic.

“Misinterpretation”, “misconception”, “misinformation” and “misstatements” resemble the terms that have been used recently during the debate that followed the publication of a scientific publication on the risk of Diacetyl.

From there to say that scientific conclusions sometimes lack objectivity… Iowa State defines electronic cigarette as vapor product and an alternative nicotine product but prohibits distribution to minors under 18, which leaves many legal opportunities to the product in this state.