Many voters are old enough to remember the days when one could walk into a restaurant and the host asked whether you wanted to be seated in the “smoking” or “non-smoking” section. Those sensitive to cigarette smoke would often wonder if there was any difference, since the smoke floated freely inside most restaurants.
Those days are thankfully long gone now, due to a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2002 that prohibited smoking in workplaces. But the rapid growth of “vaping” and e-cigarette technology illuminated a loophole in the law that effectively dials back the clock. Among other things, Amendment 9 asks voters to update the state constitution by revising definitions and clarifying that the constitutional language banning smoking also bans vaping and e-cigarettes.
Despite claims from some manufacturers, and perhaps wishful thinking on behalf of consumers of e-cigarettes, both of these newer forms of nicotine consumption introduce the same harmful chemicals into the lungs that traditional cigarettes deliver. If you already agree that workers shouldn’t have to risk their health in order to earn a paycheck, approving the updated language to include vaping and e-cigarettes in the workplace ban is a no brainer.
But some conservatives might wonder why the government needs to step in with additional regulation. After all, most conservatives oppose government involvement in any area where it isn’t necessary. And more often than not, conservatives oppose the idea that government should intervene in the lives of individuals to protect the health of its citizens. Conservatives favor of the right of individuals to make their own health choices.
For starters, Amendment 9 isn’t a new regulation as much as it is an update to the existing law that has been in place for 15 years. And over that period, Florida has realized substantial cost savings from better health outcomes as a result of the ban.
Better health outcomes translates to significant cost savings on one of Florida’s largest budget items: health care spending. The fact is, tobacco is bad for people. It’s an inarguable fact. And while the local “vape shop” will tell you that vaping is significantly safer than smoking, WebMD has a different take:
…the concerns go beyond nicotine alone. Some [vape / e-cigarette] brands contain chemicals including formaldehyde — often used in building materials — and another ingredient used in antifreeze that can cause cancer. Flavors in e-cigs also raise red flags. Some use a buttery-tasting chemical called diacetyl, which is often added to foods like popcorn. When it’s inhaled, it can be dangerous. “Diacetyl is a well-known harmful chemical, which, among other things, causes a lung disease called ‘popcorn lung,'” says Erika Sward, assistant vice president for national advocacy at the American Lung Association.
Still, if someone wants to smoke or vape their life away, conservatives aren’t going to stand in that individual’s way. But what about secondhand smoke?
There is ample evidence that exhaled vaping “smoke” (for lack of a better word) is also harmful:
A small study by Wolfgang Schober of the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority and colleagues published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health in December found that vaping worsened indoor air quality, specifically by increasing the concentration of nicotine, particulate matter, PAHs and aluminum — compounds that have been linked to lung and cardiovascular disease and cancer among other health effects.
The true conservative position on smoking is to keep the substance legal, allowing individuals to make their own choices, while restricting the impact of those poor choices on fellow citizens in the workplace, restaurants and other enclosed public places.
When people get sick, it’s the taxpayers who are often stuck picking up the bill for their health care, and that means more unnecessary government bloat. Health care currently devours a massive chunk of the state’s budget, money that could be better spent elsewhere, or simply left in the hands of taxpayers to begin with.
How much money Florida might save from passing Amendment 9 is difficult to determine, but the American Academy of Actuaries estimated that the “medical costs and economic losses to nonsmokers suffering from lung cancer or heart disease due to secondhand smoke are estimated to total nearly $6 billion a year.”
Those are national estimates, but Florida is the fourth largest state in the union, with about six percent of the population of the United States. Based on raw numbers alone, that translates to $360 million in savings. A massive portion of that would be paid by Medicaid or Medicare, directly from the pockets of taxpayers.
The bottom line is that Medicaid and Medicare expenses are already high, and will be even higher if taxpayers are forced to pay for the thousands of people who would suffer from secondhand smoke exposure – through cigarettes, vaping, or e-cigarettes – while trying to earn a paycheck.