CLASH (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment) is group that aims to defend the rights of smokers and to ensure that they are not mistreated or attacked because of the habit that they are trying to fight. The group is known for achieving to reverse the smoking ban in public parks in the state of New York through a lawsuit and now they are looking to get the same success overturning the ban on the use of electronic cigarettes on public areas in New York City.
While many may think that the advocacy group is suing based on the lack of evidence to maintain that e-cigarettes are harmful, this time their lawsuit is based in a gap that CLASH has spotted in the legislation. The ban on e-cigarettes was launched as an amendment to the Smoke-Free Air Act but given that e-cigs release vapour instead of smoke, CLASH may have a case. Particularly, considering the “one subject rule” in the city’s constitution, which establishes that laws can only refer to one subject, which should be indicated in the title.
Even though smokers and users of electronic cigarettes have created their own separate groups, they have common ground given that the vast majority of vapers used to smoke regular cigarettes. Since the two groups are facing similar challenges, it is not strange to see them coming together to oppose legislation that could affect their freedom to use their smoking or vaping devices. CLASH hopes to raise $40000 to cover the lawsuit and the appeal process, which is likely to take place and so far, they have been able to raise over $11000.
The action is supported by many New York City vapers, including Russ Wishstart, host of a popular podcast who points out that the vaping ban was included within the smoking ban because that made it easier for the bill to be passed. After all, there is a well established hostility towards smoking given what we know about the threats that it posses on our health. By adding the vaping ban to a smoking ban, the issue about the actual evidence (or lack of it) about the harmful effects of these devices.
Some may argue that the rapid growth of electronic cigarettes, have made it difficult for legislation to catch up. However, so far, in the US multiple jurisdictions have imposed bans in public places and have voted in favour of stricter legislation for these devices. The FDA has not recognized them as anti-smoking aids but it has not determined if they are to be regulated as tobacco products. In the meantime, tobacco companies, which used to be one of the worst enemies of electronic cigarettes in their earlier days, have gradually moved towards backing up e-cigarette brands and even launching their own devices. Over the last 12 months, the sales of electronic cigarettes have doubled and the number of specialized vaping shops and venues has increased dramatically.
Many detractors of electronic cigarettes have used the lack of research and information about these devices as a negative point against them. The New York City council banned them alleging that they have not been regulated and that they could create dependence on nicotine and eventually lead to regular tobacco cigarettes. Health organizations warn against them citing the potential health hazards. Ironically, the lack of evidence to confirm that e-cigarettes are indeed dangerous, is one of the reasons why their supporters claim that they should be given a chance. In their eyes, they have potential but to save lives.
Advocates of electronic cigarettes are aware that the ban on vaping is only the start. Vapers are prepared to stand up to defect what they believe to be a safer alternative to regular cigarettes and to defend their right to have an option to satisfy their cravings in a less harmful way. E-cigarettes are a technology that aims to provide smokers with the chance of getting their nicotine fix without additional damaging substances and vapers that have seen first hand the benefits of these devices are not willing to seat back while their detractors attempt to deny them the opportunity to prove that they can be a sustainable option.