December 15, 2016
Allies for Children supports Allegheny County Health Department’s proposal to treat indoor e-cigarette smoking exactly the same as cigarette smoking in public places and workplaces and urges members of County Council to do the same. This week, we sent letters to each member supporting the move. Such a proposal is backed by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who just days ago released a report focused on the health concerns regarding e-cigarette use by youth. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, no matter how it is delivered, nicotine is harmful to young people. Since e-cigarettes are reported to typically contain nicotine as well as other chemicals that are known to damage health, Allies for Children is calling on elected officials to protect local children.
Dear County Council Member:
We write to ask for your support of Allegheny County Health Department’s regulation to prevent use of e-cigarettes or vaporizers in locations where combustible cigarette use is already prohibited. Allies for Children, a child advocacy organization dedicated to promoting evidence-based policies that support the health and well being of Allegheny County children, strongly supports the regulations.
The alarming prevalence of young people inhaling tobacco products through e-cigarettes has elevated this issue to one of public importance. On December 9th, the U.S. Department of Health issued a report, E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Major findings from that report include the startling fact that, as a percentage of the population, more young adults use e-cigarettes than adults. For middle and high school students, e-cigarettes are the most popular way to consume nicotine— surpassing even cigarettes as the primary way to access the drug.
Clearly, those of us concerned about young people becoming addicted to nicotine have a lot to worry about. The Surgeon General’s report advises that local jurisdictions include e-cigarettes as part of their clean indoor air laws. While the Federal Drug Administration has the ability to regulate tobacco, including requiring manufacturers to list ingredients and health impacts, it cannot restrict tobacco use in public places.
Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act does not include e-cigarettes in its definition of products prohibited for use indoors. Legislation has been introduced to rectify that change, such as House Bill 682 from the 2015-2016 session; however, until or unless the General Assembly chooses to update the Clean Indoor Air Law, local governments must protect residents.
As of October, nearly 1,000 local governments have taken action to protect residents from e-cigarette use indoors. We hope that you will support Allegheny County children by joining that group.
Allies for Children believes that prohibiting e-cigarette smoking alongside combustible smoking is an appropriate public health measure. More than fifty years of studying combustible cigarettes has allowed us to fully understand the dangerous impacts of second-hand smoke. Meanwhile, e-cigarettes only entered the U.S. market in the mid-2000’s. While we don’t know all the potential harmful effects from the aerosols, we know enough to protect children and non-smoking adults from being exposed second-hand to potentially toxic vapors. According to studies of youth attitudes, about one-third of youth e-cigarette smokers falsely believed that e-cigarettes were completely harmless.
We should not let our children become the next generation of nicotine addicts, due to our inaction. Allies for Children strongly supports the regulations proposed by the Allegheny County Health Department and asks that you vote to ensure they become law in Allegheny County. Thank you for your consideration.
Patrick Dowd, executive director Erika Fricke, health policy director
Click here to read more about the 2016 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on e-cigarette use among youth and young adults. If you would like to comment on the matter, you can click here to sign up to share your thoughts at the Allegheny County Council Meeting on December 20, 2016. You must sign up at least 24 hours in advance.