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City regulators are banning chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes from a major park in Montana, justifying the measure by citing the risks associated with tobacco smoke.
The Butte Council of Commissioners voted Thursday to ban smokeless tobacco and vapor products from Clark Park, in addition to combustible cigarettes. The addition of vaping devices and chewing tobacco, products that do not produce any smoke, is curious given the fact that officials cited dangers from secondhand smoke as their main reason for the ban, reports KXLF.
Critics of such restrictive policies argue they give residents the impression that smokeless tobacco and vapor products are just as dangerous as cigarettes, ignoring research showing they have vastly different health impacts on the user.
“We’re only doing this to help make Butte a healthier place,” Frank Rozan, a prevention specialist with the Butte Health Department, told KXLF. “The cigarette butts are so toxic and they toss out so willy-nilly, our studies have also shown that second-hand smoke builds up the same level outdoors as it does indoors, so there is no safe level of second-hand smoke.”
Electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco reduce harm caused by cigarettes to the user by more than 90 percent because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals and toxins from smoking are released through combustion. While researchers argue legislation aimed at cutting down on the use of combustible cigarettes is admirable, they caution against policies that falsely conflate nicotine-based devices with combustible cigarettes.
Rozan said the ban at Clark Park will serve as a pilot program, which he hopes to expand to the city’s other parks and outdoor venues.
Localities throughout the country continue to try to restrict alternative smoking products, relying on dated statistics or predetermined narratives about their alleged dangers while ignoring positive research. Lawmakers in Starkville, Miss., passed a ban Oct. 3 in a unanimous vote to included e-cigarettes and other vapor products in their definition of tobacco products. The city of Hamilton, Ohio, moved in September to criminalize the use of electronic cigarettes in nearly all public areas by lumping them in with traditional tobacco.
Public health experts focused on harm reduction argue local bans that reduce access to products helping millions of smokers quit undermine public health and actually keep residents hooked on cigarettes.