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The Super Dome’s designated smoking and vaping area during halftime of the Saints-Falcons game on October 15, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Crescent City Vape.)

The Super Dome’s designated smoking and vaping area during halftime of the Saints-Falcons game on October 15, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Crescent City Vape.)

By Brendan Frost

Sean Partridge, the owner of Crescent City Vape on Magazine Street — and my boss at the store — was at the Thursday night Saints-Falcons game when halftime rolled around and he felt like having a vape. Since the New Orleans City Council passed the indoor smoking and vaping ban that took effect on April 22, Saints fans who want to vape must step outside into the designated smoking area that hugs the Super Dome.

“You’re not allowed to leave the stadium and come back,” Sean said. “So you have to go to this area closed off with police barricades. It’s a group of rowdy people packed in shoulder-to-shoulder, and almost every single person is smoking cigarettes.”

About two-thirds of this smoking/vaping section is covered by an overhang, which causes the smoke to curl downward, hovering around the faces of vapers and smokers alike.

“It’s unbearable. Eyes watering, nose burning, it’s very disgusting. E-cigarette vapor does not cause this type of reaction.” Other vapers in this section, Sean told me, were complaining that they were inhaling more smoke than they had since they quit smoking.

I share this story because it’s a great illustration of the problem with vaping regulation. The New Orleans City Council, like many city and state organizations across the country, enacted legislation without fully understanding relatively new products and the law’s impact on the people (primarily former smokers) who use these products.

I won’t mince words: The main purpose of this ordinance — to prohibit tobacco smoking in any indoor public space — is beneficial for my long-term health, and that of thousands of people in this city.

I hate smoking. That’s why I quit almost two years ago. I was smoking a pack and a half per day. I don’t miss cigarettes even a tiny bit, and I’m endlessly grateful for the years of my life that vaping has given back to me.

As a vaper, I don’t mind being barred from vaping where smokers cannot smoke. It’s a small price to pay for what is ultimately a big step forward for public health. But I do mind when that restriction treats vaping and smoking equally, and ends up forcing former smokers like me to be in unhealthy environments like the Super Dome scene described above. There are thousands of former smokers, now vapers, in our city whose health concerns were overlooked in this legislation.

To be clear, it’s not really the final form of the ordinance in practice that worries me. It’s the city’s official association of vaping and smoking that has much bigger implications on public health.

The indoor smoking and vaping ban, as initially proposed in January by Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, exempted smoke shops and cigar bars, but not vape shops. In this sense, the proposal took an even harsher approach towards vaping, which indicates a lack of understanding about vaping and its role for smokers who want to quit.

Fortunately, the ordinance eventually was amended to allow vaping in vape shops, among other changes.

The biggest problem with the ban is that it restricts smoking and vaping in exactly the same ways, and as a result, many New Orleanians equate the two in terms of negative health effects. That means many smokers actually believing that e-cigarettes are just as harmful as the cigarettes they continue to smoke.

Of course, cigarettes and e-cigarettes are not the same. E-cigarettes do not produce any smoke and do not contain any tobacco. The only shared ingredient in tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes is nicotine, which some researchers consider no more harmful than caffeine.

E-cigarette opponents often say that we just don’t have enough research and information to make informed decisions about vaping. And many such claims were made during City Council meetings discussing the ban. In reality, however, a research on the health effects of vaping has shown positive results.

This summer, Public Health England, an agency of U.K.’s Department of Health, published a comprehensive review of 94 scientific papers and nine additional reports related to e-cigarettes. Their official position based on their findings is that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking and is an effective method of smoking cessation. Two counties in England actually have begun to prescribe vaping as an official medical method of quitting cigarettes.

The bottom line is that smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the world, responsible for nearly 500,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. And countless Americans have reduced their smoking or have quit entirely thanks to vaping.

By treating vaping and smoking the same in this ordinance, New Orleans City Council has sent a dangerous message to smokers in our communities. And the bar may be set for future restrictions on vaping whenever tobacco products face additional regulation.

In a city where 20% of residents still smoke cigarettes, we should be ready and willing to embrace products that can drastically reduce smoking rates, rather than jumping at the first opportunity to restrict them.

Brendan Frost is a manager at Crescent City Vape’s Uptown shop at 4507 Magazine Street. He’s been vaping for nearly two years, successfully using e-cigarettes to quit tobacco cigarettes. Brendan has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from UNO.

  36 Responses to “Guest column: Vaping is not smoking, so why does New Orleans treat them the same?”

  1. E-cigs MUST be banned. They compete with Chantix and Nicoderm, defeating the entire purpose of draconian smoking bans, the bottom line of Pfizer.

  2. From 2013 to 2014, past-month e-cigarette use among high school students tripled to 13.4 percent. We’re also seeing high prevalence of e-cigarette use among youth who have never used these products. In 2013, over a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes.

    For more than 75 years, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act has required drug manufacturers, including manufacturers of products that claim to help people quit smoking, to present their scientific evidence to objective, independent, expert scientific review by the FDA. It is the only way to protect consumers from irresponsible, dangerous claims. Not one e-cigarette manufacturer has produced that kind of evidence or applied to the FDA to make such claims.

    When it comes to claims that cigarette smokers will reduce their risk if they switch to an e-cigarette, the 2009 law giving FDA jurisdiction over tobacco products sets out a common-sense standard that weighs the product’s impact both on current tobacco users and on the population as a whole.

    No other manufacturer of products regulated by the FDA is allowed to make claims about the safety of their products without first conducting the science to demonstrate the accuracy of their statements; neither should e-cigarette makers.

    –from Matt Myers, letter to New York Times

    • Vaping is undeniably safer than smoking cigarettes, so how does it make sense to effectively remove 99.9% of vapor products from the market (as the FDA’s deeming regulations would), while not eliminating a single actual tobacco cigarette from the market?

      The FDA’s primary purpose is to protect and promote public health. The only thing these regulations would protect is Big Tobacco profits by eliminating their biggest competition on the market.

      Public health advocates shouldn’t take their eye off the ball. The real threat to public health is tobacco cigarettes, which kill nearly 500,000 Americans per year. Shouldn’t reducing that death toll be the primary concern?

      Vaping is not for kids. It’s for adult smokers. Minors are not allowed to purchase e-cigarettes in Louisiana (and almost every other state). Hopefully it will be that way federally soon. But we can’t ignore the fact that these products help ADULTS quit smoking.

      Oh, and did you see this recent study from Yale University that found that in states banning e-cig use to minors, minors are actually smoking tobacco cigarettes at higher rates?

      Yes, these are real findings from Yale School of Public Health:

      “Conventional cigarette use has been falling somewhat steadily among this age group since the start of the 21st century. This paper shows that bans on e-cigarette sales to minors appear to have slowed this decline by about 70 percent in the states that implemented them,” said Abigail Friedman, assistant professor of public health and the study’s author. “In other words, as a result of these bans, more teenagers are using conventional cigarettes than otherwise would have done so.”

      That’s pretty much the definition of “counterproductive.”

      • Care to name one of those SAMMEC invented deaths from statistics! Ya that’s right there are no deaths from smoking there as plastic as the junk science that invented them.

      • Not to mention – most of these kids that start vaping are not vaping with nicotine. People dont generally start vaping with nicotine if they aren’t quitting smoking. Honestly, after giving this some thought, we will be restricting nicotine to anyone under 18, obviously, but as to vaping products themselves? We believe it should be an age more realistic like 15-16, as it can (and DOES!) work to reduce teenage tobacco use.

  3. They treat vaping the same as smoking because it looks like smoking. The ban isn’t about health it’s about social control. The risks of second hand smoke are near zero. The risks from second hand smoke are zero. The smoking and vaping ban should be repealed.

    • When I don’t know what substance(s) someone is putting in their e-pipe and they are exhaling that substance in my direction and I’m inhaling that substance, then I’m going to object. If you doubt the potency of the substance in that cloud coming out of someone’s lungs then I guess you’ve never heard of shotgunning. Sorry, but vaping is a gateway to all kinds of stupidity…I personally do not know of anyone who has vaped and stopped smoking cigs.

      • And we know that hundreds of thousands have quit smoking with vaping. “I personally do not know of anyone” is an anecdotal logical fallacy. Just because you don’t know anyone doesn’t negate the number of people out there who have. It’s why vaping has a 60% success rate with smoking cessation. As opposed to medications and cold turkey, all have less than <5% efficacy.

      • One of the products emitted by those vaping is formaldehyde and it is toxic. Thus the smoke emitted by vaping, and there is smoke emitted contrary to the claims of the article, is toxic. As for not targeting kids, why are there flavors that target kids such as gummy bears?

        • You are grossly incorrect. Formaldehyde can’t be produced while vaping normally; formaldehyde was created in tests using machines simulating vaping, at much higher temperatures than is humanly acceptable (or even tolerable). You must be reading citations of studies paid for by Big Tobacco.

        • Thank you for commenting!

          The formaldehyde levels found in e-cigarettes are so miniscule as to be negligible. See this collection of studies here showcasing exactly this fact:

          If you are referring to the study that went around the internet showing that e-cigarettes have excessive amounts of formaldehyde, this study was conducted using e-cigarettes at normal levels, and then dry burning them–ie., directly burning a cotton wick instead of vaping like any actual vaper would. The scientists who conducted this study knew what they were doing, and never intended to say that normal vaping produces a high amount of formaldehyde. Here is a description of that misinterpretation:

          If you look at that first study I linked to above, it shows that the formaldehyde levels in e-cigarettes used correctly are approximately the same as a human breathes in simply by walking down a normal city street.

          • It is ridiculous to even try to argue with someone who sells e-cigarettes. You can always cherry-pick the studies in your favor. I could site studies supporting my claims but they would fall on deaf ears. The stats on children trying e-cigarettes suggest that they are starting to try them earlier and earlier then moving on to real cigarettes. As for Big Tobacco being against e-cigs, they are clearly in favor of them since they are now producing both e-cigs and regular cigs and making twice as much money.

      • There are hundreds of thousands of us who have quit smoking using e-cigarettes to help, and moved on to vaping altogether.

      • Thanks for the comment!

        To give you a sense of my experience–I don’t know anyone who has switched to vaping on a good quality setup and has gone back to smoking cigarettes. A few vapers I know still smoke the occasional cigarette, but around 85% of vapers I know never smoke tobacco at all anymore, and 99.9% of them started vaping with the intention to quit smoking.

        As to being invasive of other peoples’ lungs, I hear you, and I’m not trying to blow my vape in *anybody’s* face. This is the same way virtually every vaper I know is; we don’t want to intrude upon anyone else’s preferences or health at all. We just want to vape and be healthier than we were when we smoked tobacco.

    • You are absolutely insane if you think there are no risks of second hand smoke. Repeating it twice doesn’t make that true.

      Vaping, on the other hand, much safer for anyone standing around a vaper.

  4. Brendan, As a public health educator and researcher, I was impressed with your article and argument. It makes perfect sense that vapers should not have to endure the health and stink risks associated with exposure to tobacco smoke. I think reasonable people can understand this and I wish you the best in getting the tobacco/vape ordinances changed.

    • Since vaping is “not an addiction” and nobody is force-marching them into the smoking area, there is a quite simple way to avoid the health risks. Don’t go.

    • Susan, thank you for taking the time to comment, and I appreciate your praise! Keep up the good fight–and thank you for working towards improving the health of those around you!

  5. There are several issues here. The discomfort of former smokers in the presence of smoke is legitimate. There is however no credible evidence that vaping is harmless. The nicotine is still absorbed into a person’s system. Vaping, hookahs, and smookless tobacco are all cancer causing. It is stupid to even start using these products. Nicotine addiction addiction is vicious and can take a long time to overcome. There are legitimate stop smoking programs available and they offer support both medical and non-medical for quitting this most difficult addiction.

    • You obviously dont understand what vapers experience when switching from tobacco cigarettes to a vaping product. Everyone starts out with a high enough nicotine level to stimulate the nicotine cravings they had when they smoked, and most start coming down on the nic mg percentage after awhile. I started out at 30 mg and now im down to 3mg. Thats a extremely big drop in nicotine intake. Some of the juices i vape are 0mg. Most cessation products simply do not work. Ive personally tried about all of them and not a single one worked for me. After 26 years of smoking and a heart attack, Vaping saved my life. My lungs have healed, my heart has healed, I have energy, stamina and taste senses back. Vaping saves lives. Tobacco destroys lives and our government doesnt care. Its all about money and control for them. Wake up and see whats really happening.

    • Vaping has not applied to the FDA as a smoking reduction device. I think their problem is, most e-cig or vape users continue to smoke too.

      This push to not be in the smoking section is more of a sales/PR move. Look at us, we are over here NOT smoking.

      • That would be because Vaping is not a smoking cessation device it is a safer alternative to smoking.
        Vapers don’t quit vaping because they enjoy it.
        I know it’s really hard for you anti smoking nazis to understand but smoking and vaping are actually enjoyable to the user.
        If it were just about nicotine then Pfizers patches and gums would work more than 3% of the time.

    • Hello M L, I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

      I would be interested to see what studies have
      shown strong evidence that vaping carries a real appreciable risk of causing cancer. I have not seen any, and all the evidence found so far from peer-reviewed scientific studies has shown the amount of carcinogens (formaldehyde and acrolein) in the vapor produced by an e-cigarette to be so negligible as to be roughly equal to the amount you receive by walking down a normal city street. This amount in e-cig vapor is far less harmful, for example, than walking through cities like Los Angeles with lots of smog. Check out these studies gathered together in a systematic overview here:

      As for vapers still receiving nicotine, indeed they do (if they use an e-liquid with nicotine). But there is no evidence that nicotine is any more carcinogenic or addictive than caffeine.

      Check out these articles about studies conducted on nicotine’s negligible harm level:

      Regarding the addictiveness of nicotine, check
      out this overview of a study, where they offered rats nicotine-free tobacco,
      and then offered them pure nicotine.

      Consistently, the rats chose to return to the nicotine-free
      tobacco. In other words, the other thousands of chemicals in tobacco are noticeably more addictive than the nicotine itself, using the studies we have.

      To be clear, I am in no way suggesting nicotine
      is not addictive–it is, but it is not the main component in cigarettes that creates addiction. And there is some evidence that nicotine can act as a very minor carcinogen, just as there is similar evidence for caffeine, or for breathing in formaldehyde from the atmosphere, some of which has always been there (well before factories existed) and is naturally produced. For one example, any human, whether they smoke or vape or do neither, exhales with each breath a negligible amount of isoprene, which is technically a carcinogen. Very minor carcinogens are all around the world, from both artificial and natural sources. It becomes a problem when a product carries harmful elements to an extent that will be likely to seriously effect an individual’s health, like cigarettes do. Obviously, not vaping at all is a better guarantee of ideal health than vaping, but vaping is a vastly better alternative for your health than smoking, and this is backed up by all the scientific evidence we have so far.

    • So a vaping only section away from the smoking only section would be so much of a burden on your important life that it shouldn’t even be discussed?
      What happens in 20 years when 4% of Americans smoke and 16% Vape?
      That is about the opposite of todays statistics.

    • Nicotine has been shown, in recent studies, to be about as ‘harmful’ as caffeine.

  6. ……………Vaping and its main component are FDA and EPA approved as indoor hospital disenfectants since 1957. Prior to that medicinal smoke was used to disinfect areas. With the advent of indoor smoking bans this protection is lost and viral and bacterial components are now free to create public epidemics everywhere. Its even worse for children in cars with car bans now as listeria and other bacterial growths from children in a recent study have shown them to be big problems where before the buffer zone of car smoking protected the kids from these germs.

    In fact a smoked in venue even a week later was still 98% sterile and vaping indoors improves that protection rate even higher.

    So lets kick the public health mafia out the doors and get back to protecting ourselves and our own from public infectous diseases that smoking and vaping can prevent and save a non smokers life!

  7. You do realize that you could just not vape instead of being all whiny about it, right? If you don’t like standing around the smokers, just wait until the game is over and vape elsewhere. Problem solved.

    The reason you get grouped in with smokers is that vaping is still relatively new and while there is obvious proof that it’s safer than tobacco, there are still too few studies to prove that it doesn’t harm others around you. It may not produce smoke, but it still produces an annoying cloud of vapor that contains god knows what and most people don’t want that blown into their faces either.

    • You are incorrect; the ‘vapor’ that is exhaled has been measured and has found to be about as toxic as normal room air. Vapor is sort of a misnomer; the product created by an e-cig is actually technically an aerosol.

  8. I just read this medical study published by IFLScience. Not entirely sure how I feel about this…

  9. The New Orleans City council included the van on vaping based on recommendations from the local Tobacco Free Kids leaders and the folks who claim to be experts on this topic at the LSU school of public health. My attempts to provide the scientific evidence showing that exhaled vapor is not a hazard to bystanders and that vaping is far lower risk than smoking were rebuffed on the basis that, since I did not support the TFK party line, I must be a spokesperson for the big tobacco companies that TFK defends our children against. The LSU people adhere very closely to the preferred TFK and CDC party lines and simply dismiss research findings not sanctioned by those organizations. Anyone interested in learning more about the science in support of promotion of e-cigs for tobacco harm reduction and safety to bystanders should contact me at I can also direct you to the critiques of the studies commonly quoted to infer such hazards.

    • The problem is that states lose money when tobacco sales go down; this goes back to the big lawsuits that were settled years ago. The tobacco companies’ compromise was to offer a yearly settlement payment that is based on the state’s tobacco sales of the previous year. Legislators know this, and continuously promote Big Tobacco’s talking points because the state loses money if tobacco product sales go DOWN. Big Tobacco wants to shut vaping down; that is, if they can’t own all of it.

  10. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

    I fully recognize that I could wait until the end of the game to vape. This is obviously the current solution. The Super Dome story here was used to illustrate the ill-conceived approach towards vaping of the New Orleans City Council, not to be whiny about the Super Dome’s policy. I don’t blame the Super Dome at all.

    Regardless, would it be great trouble to make a separate vaping and smoking section? One additional barricade and the problem is solved, and this would not only provide a practical solution but would be a small indication that vaping is being approached differently from tobacco. I don’t ask to be given *any* special privileges, just for vaping to get the same level of *honest* scientific understanding that any new and potentially life-saving product receives.

    And vaping section aside, the most important factor here is that you are not producing “god knows what” when you exhale e-cigarette vapor. Quite literally, the scientists who have conducted 114 e-cigarette vapor-related studies (and rising) know what. The studies specifically conducted about e-cig vapor exhalation are even more promising, showing no observable amounts of the negative byproducts shown in vapor inhalation, which are already so minuscule as to be negligible by the standards of OSHA for constant workplace inhalation.

    But regardless of what’s in e-cig vapor, like virtually every vaper I know, I go to great lengths to avoid blowing my vapor in anyone’s face. I am constantly aware of my surroundings when vaping, and have no interest in imposing my vape upon other people. Those who do impose it upon others are behaving poorly, just like those who aggressively cut off other drivers or try to cut in line at the grocery store. Any good citizen would never condone this behavior, and any group of humans has its bad apples. Being a manager at a vape shop, I spend a ton of time around many vapers, and I can tell you that in my experience the vast majority of them are fully considerate and careful not to exhale their vapor haphazardly.

  11. There are 9 million vapers in the United States:
    More than 70% only vape and only 0.4% of them never smoked cigarettes (They may have used other tobacco products or would have started smoking cigarettes if vaping didn’t exist)

    The moral of the story: AT LEAST 5 MILLION Ex Smokers can thank vaping for getting them off of cigarettes and that is in 4 years tops.
    How long do you think it took “public health” to get 5 million smokers off cigarettes before vaping and how much do you think it cost our country to do it?
    Vaping stimulates the economy while getting smokers off cigarettes and that was Big Pharmas mafia style monopoly racket.
    Who do you think hates vaping the most?

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