We can understand elected officials wanting to protect the public's health, but they should have all the facts before they make a decision.
Consider the recent ban on electronic cigarettes in county-owned buildings in Montgomery County.
"The issue of e-cigarettes was brought up by a few department heads, and I decided to draft an executive order banning them from our buildings," Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said. "It's better to be safe than sorry."
Montgomery County is not the only place where this has happened. Albany County also banned e-cigarettes in county-owned buildings. In New York City, a law prohibits the use of e-cigarettes anywhere traditional cigarettes are banned.
While the intentions behind the laws may be noble, we disagree with their enactment now. The building bans are premature.
According to the Food and Drug administration, electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine and other chemicals.
"The devices turn chemicals, including highly addictive nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user," according to the FDA.
We all understand why regular cigarettes are banned from county-owned buildings: secondhand smoke from cigarettes is harmful.
But in the case of e-cigarettes, there is no strong evidence of harm. As the FDA notes, e-cigarettes have not been fully studied. Consumers don't know the potential risks of e-cigarettes when they are used as intended, or how much nicotine or other chemicals are being inhaled during use. Possible dangers from secondhand "e-smoke" also are undetermined.
E-cigarettes have been largely unregulated - which explains the lack of knowledge - but that appears to be changing. The FDA recently took a step toward regulation. The agency has proposed banning sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and requiring approval for new products and health warning labels.
We expect more information will come in about the possible consequences of using e-cigarettes, but there is no reason yet to ban the product from public buildings.
Let's at least get enough information before we decide what freedoms to take away from people.