Both the Bradley County and East Ridge city councils are considering new ordinances to add a smoke-free product, electronic cigarettes, to public smoking bans. Rationales for regulatory actions vary. Often they revolve around misplaced fears that e-cigarettes will serve as a gateway, as well as misperceptions that e-cigarette vapor is as harmful as cigarettes. Both fears are unsupported by evidence. A University of Oklahoma study found that only 43 of 1,300 college students reported that e-cigarettes were their first form of nicotine, and furthermore a study released by Drexel University's School of Public Health last fall found no evidence that e-cigarettes expose users or bystanders to levels of contaminants that would warrant health concerns. In the debate over e-cigarettes, that goal has been forgotten by some policymakers. Instead, legislators in cities like San Francisco and New York City have seen fit to justify these laws by some variant of, "I don't approve of smoking, this looks like smoking, so it must be banned." This is not how rational public policy is formed. E-cigarettes have the potential to save millions of lives, and those who would impede smokers' access to them -- or to offer truthful information about them -- are, in fact, killing smokers.
DIMITRIS AGRAFIOTIS, Executive Director, Tenn., Smoke Free Association
I live in the greatest little city -- East Ridge, Tenn. Some people do not like small-town government, and that may be warranted in some towns, but not in East Ridge. I have lived here for over 40 years, and I have seen a lot of changes in both the government and the citizens. Today's East Ridge has the best city officials and the best community citizens. In the last six or so years, I have had occasion to personally deal with the mayor's office, the police department, fire department, animal services, codes enforcement, sanitation department and the streets department. On each occasion, the department heads and the department staff have treated me like I was the most important citizen, and that my issue or concern was of extreme importance to them. In each case, the department handled, resolved and even followed up on the issue later. The City Council and the mayor of East Ridge should be proud of themselves and proud of each of the departments and department heads. The citizens of East Ridge also deserve credit for being community minded and for coming together to make our neighborhoods safer places to live and work.
SHARON IBRAHIM, East Ridge