Con: E-cigarettes haven't been proven to be harmful; bans premature

Aug. 3, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.

Nicol Frederick said she'd think twice about eating at a restaurant that banned e-cigarettes.

Frederick smoked cigarettes for 15 years before trying an electronic one. It's been a year since switching, and she's already seen improvements in her health.

"I smoke it in my car, in my house, in public - it goes with me everywhere," the 29-year-old Victoria woman said.

An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that converts liquid nicotine into a vapor that users can inhale. The vapor doesn't need to be exhaled. The juice or liquid inside is made up of nicotine, flavoring - typically what you might find in a flavored beverage - and chemicals glycerin or polyethylene glycol. There's no tar or carbon dioxide, as found in a conventional cigarette, supporters say.

E-cigarettes are not federally regulated; however, in April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed extending its tobacco authority to include the products.

Frederick said it is premature for restaurants to ban a substance that hasn't proven to be harmful and may only be a nuisance for undereducated eaters.

A spokesman for Texas Roadhouse said the decision to ban e-cigarettes at all locations had nothing to do with customers but employees.

"Our servers and all of our employees are really focused on serving legendary food and providing legendary service and really not debating in the merits and the science of electronic cigarettes," spokesman Travis Doster said. "There are still a lot of people that don't understand them, and we don't want to put our employees in a position about having to explain. We're about serving food - not debating vapors."

Because of that confusion, Edna City Council members chose to add e-cigarettes to its current smoking ban, stating constituents brought the issue up to them.

District 2 Councilwoman Maxine Price said the public doesn't like smelling them at a place that serves food, and, despite a lack of research, the council as a whole decided to ban them.

As soon as Michelle Howarton, owner of the SCS Vape stores in Victoria and Port Lavaca, learned of the council members' decision, she logged in to her email and sent a letter to the council with research on the dangers of "real" cigarettes, writing that, "If we ban e-cigarettes, then we are saying you are not worth saving, period."

Like Frederick, Howarton was a longtime smoker who went through two packs a day for about 20 years.

Howarton wrote the council, telling them about how her children no longer have asthma after she switched to an e-cigarette and that doctors have sent a few patients her way.

"I still haven't heard back from them," Howarton said about the Edna council members. "For most people, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a duck. This is not a duck."

Ignorance of vaping, however, is no excuse, she said.

"It's an inability and unwillingness to think outside the box," she said. "An unwillingness to do their own research and be willing to accept that just because something's different doesn't mean that it's bad."

Kristyl Bratton, 25, of Victoria, doesn't smoke e-cigarettes, but because of the improvements she's seen in her boyfriend using them, she's a supporter.

"I don't think it's right for the restaurants to ban them," she said. "I think that was the point of making them - so you can smoke inside."

Bratton said she's seen people smoke e-cigarettes at the mall and McDonald's, and no one has ever said anything.

"It's their restaurant, and it's their choice to ban them," she said. "But it's my choice to not go there anymore."



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