Steaming mad

Dr Rachel Hodder
Insights Newsletter
28 July, 2017

The Whanganui District Council has taken the bold step of banning the use of electronic cigarettes (vaping) in public areas.

Experts recognise that vaping is a much safer alternative to smoking and has been a critical factor in helping people quit. But thankfully, Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall does not bother wasting his time informing himself on the “research” or “evidence”. The mayor ‘knew of’ young people who had become smokers after starting vaping.

Who needs a body of international research when the mayor has some contradicting anecdotes? The council has every right to be concerned that vaping will impede efforts to reduce smoking. According to the mayor, "[vaping] is normalising the idea of inhaling something hot."

This is the real danger of vaping. If people think inhaling something hot is normal, chain smoking is the next logical step. But it is not just vaping that could lead to this dangerous normalisation. Children are bombarded with portrayals of adults consuming hot vapours everywhere they look.

Think carefully who is watching next time you take an indulgent sniff of your winter soup. Avoid the pleasant steam from your Earl Grey by drinking it through a straw. Block your nose next time you walk past Mrs Higgins Cookies. If you breathe in the wafting aroma of baked goods next thing you know you’ll be hooked on the durries.

The problem with the vaping ban is that it does not go far enough. If the council really want to take action on smoking they should adopt a harder stance on all activities that involve inhaling hot vapours. Lest impressionable young minds start thinking that breathing in warm vapours is a safe, carefree activity.

A good place to start would be with the highly addictive hot substance peddled on every street corner: your morning coffee.

Part of the mayor’s concern with e-cigarettes is that they offer appealing flavours like strawberry and cherry ripe. Imagine his outrage when he hears about pumpkin spice lattes.

There might be some resistance to a coffee ban since the filthy habit is so widespread. But let’s not let personal liberty get in the way of a well-meaning public health initiative.

However, the council should be careful not to go too far. If they start cracking down on all sources of hot air they might find themselves out of a job.

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