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At one time it could be said that you can vape anywhere, even in places where smoking is not allowed. Unfortunately that situation quickly changed as anti-vaping groups pushed for vaping to be treated like smoking, and they had a great deal of success with their efforts. Now many parts of the country ban vaping wherever smoking is banned due to misinformation and paranoia. But some localities are vape-friendly, having few if any restrictions on vaping and seeing it as a separate from smoking for the purpose of both bans and taxes.
Free-market think tank R Street Institute, which is based in Washington, D.C., ranked 52 American cities on their policies about vaping. The report released this month ranks Virginia Beach at the top of the list, giving it an A+ in the study’s school-style grading system. Minneapolis was at the bottom of the list with the lowest of the F grades, with the other F cities being Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston and eight cities in California – a state that recently passed by vote a huge increase in cigarette and e-cigarette taxes.
The ranking was based on city bans on vaping, taxes and licensing for sellers of vaping products. The California cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, Long Beach, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco all scored poorly based on date from prior to the recent passage of the vaping tax. If figures were recalculated with the new tax included, California cities would presumably rank even lower.
The study’s lowest ranked city, Minneapolis, has vaping regulations that “patently fail to recognize the potential of vapor products to reduce tobacco harm,” according to the study’s authors.
On the positive end of the rankings, Virginia Beach “embraces policies conducive to tobacco harm reduction.” The state of Virginia’s Supreme Court recognized the difference between vaping and smoking in 2010. Virginia Beach wound up with a total score of 97 in the study, and was the only city to do better than the base score of 95. But closely behind in the ranking are Albuquerque, New Mexico and three Arizona cities; Phoenix, Mesa and Tucson. All of these cities were just one point shy of the 95 base score.
Many of the “bad cities” had scores below 0. The authors concluded that California as a state is fast becoming the most hostile environment for vaping in the country. Overall, the authors say that many U.S. policies are based on misinformation, and they accuse lawmakers of wanting to replace declining cigarette tax revenue rather than the stated goal of wanting to improve the public health.
If, in fact, claims of wanting to reduce harm are true, then perhaps anti-vaping policies are simply misguided and based on actual concerns. In this case, getting the truth about the relative safety of vaping out could go a long way in getting anti-vaping policies revoked in favor of common-sense regulations that would keep vapor products out of the hands of children but allow adults to make the safer choice of vaping. But if the real reason for taxes and restrictions on vaping is because officials are scrambling to replace tax money that’s been declining because people are actually quitting tobacco cigarettes, then exposure of this reality to the general public, along with scientific data, could be the best way to force policy makers to change their stance on vaping.