TRENTON — The New Jersey Senate has approved a bill that restricts the sale and use of electronic cigarettes.
The bill expands the definition of “smoking” to include e-cigarettes and extends the ban on smoking by minors to include them.
Electronic cigarettes look like the real thing but don’t contain tobacco. Instead, they employ a metal tube with a battery that heats up a liquid nicotine solution. Users inhale and exhale the resulting water vapor.
The Senate bill, approved Thursday by a 38-0 vote, prohibits their use in public places and workplaces. It was approved Monday by the state Assembly and now goes to Gov. Jon Corzine.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg has called on the federal Food and Drug Administration to remove e-cigarettes from the market.
Michael Siegel has already addressed the foolishness of the supposed health detriments to e-smoking so I will not repeat that.
But here’s what struck me about this:
1. If we think smoking is bad (and that appears to be generally accepted) then you should be encouraging alternatives. The popular perception of smokers so often put forth by anti-smoking groups is of slaves to an addiction which will kill them and who would do anything to quit. So to use a simple metaphor, they are in a room on fire and are actively looking for an exit.
E-cigarettes are just such an exit.
They might not be the official “fire drill” exit, but they are an exit. But the building fire marshalls don’t like the idea of anybody just using whichever exit they like. They spent a lot of time designating the proper door and by god, people are going to use it! Better a few lost than the chaos of people getting out of the room any which way.
2. Backing up the behavioral control is changing the definition of smoking; Orwellian NewSpeak if ever there was. But it is telling in that it makes quite clear that the concern is over the behavior and not the health consequences.
3. Finally, even the most obvious issues tend to have at least one dissenter but here we had 38 voting for and none against? When is the last time that happened? Must have been quite the exciting day on the floor hearing the arguments on that!