Tobacco

The Clueless Crusade to Ban E-Cigarettes

Prohibitionists target a safe alternative because...it looks like smoking?

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Electronic cigarette
Witzman

H.L. Mencken famously defined puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." He might have been describing contemporary anti-smoking activists, that dour band of fuss-budgets constantly on the prowl for new ways to make life slightly less bearable by limiting the choices available to grown adults.

Incredibly, the latest push from tobacco eliminationists doesn't involve actual smoking, which has already been driven out of polite society more thoroughly than Rev. Jeremiah Wright sermons, early David Allan Coe records, and Three's Company-era gay jokes combined. But it does lay bare the prohibitionist mindset and its fixation on scrubbing the planet clean of any behavior or attitude the crusader deems unacceptable.

This time, the buttinskys are trying to douse the dreaded e-cigarette, a device that supplies a safe nicotine hit to the user without bothering or endangering anybody else. E-cigarettes use replaceable cartridges in which nicotine or flavors are heated, vaporized, and inhaled (users are called "vapers"). Some e-cigarettes look like conventional cancer sticks and others look more like something from a bad Sylvester Stallone movie set in the near future. Questions of fashion aside, they are not just a safer way for smokers to get the nicotine they crave, they are apparently as safe as milk (well, pasteurized milk, anyway, and assuming you're not lactose intolerant).

Critics warn that trace amounts of bad stuff can be found in e-cigarettes' vapor, but that is not necessarily cause for concern, much less prohibition. As a new review of the literature on e-cigarettes from Drexel University's Igor Burstyn concludes, "Current data do not indicate that exposures to vapors from contaminants in electronic cigarettes warrant a concern. There are no known toxicological synergies among compounds in the aerosol, and mixture of the contaminants does not pose a risk to health." In fact, the inability to show proof of harm was one of the reasons the Food and Drug Administration's 2010 bid to control e-cigarettes as a "drug-delivery device" failed in court. Burstyn notes further there is even less reason to be concerned with second-hand fumes, which are by definition even less concentrated than what the vaper sucks down. His main concern is that users knowingly choose whether they're getting nicotine or not.

As Michael Siegel, who teaches at Boston University's School of Public Health, wrote in a recent New York Timesdebate on e-cigarettes, despite evidence that e-cigarettes reduce overall harm from smoking "many anti-smoking groups oppose these products because they are blinded by ideology: they find it difficult, if not impossible, to endorse a behavior that looks like smoking, even though it is literally saving people's lives….What's not to like?"

Well, plenty, it turns out. E-cigarettes are the subject of an ever-growing list of bans, prohibitions, and expert opprobrium (just read some of the other participants in that Times' debate). As always, New York – a town once called "Fun City" that still likes to pretend it's tougher than the rib-eyes for sale at the few remaining Tad's Steaks in Times Square – is leading the charge against e-cigarettes. As Gothamist reports, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is "quietly working…to enact a sweeping ban on flavored e-cigs."

The same impulse is afoot in less trendy parts of the country. Illinois has banned e-cigarette sales to teens and Massachusetts is considering legislation that would ban giving away free samples or using the devices anywhere that tobacco is already verboten. Despite the lack of second-hand smoke, school districts around the country have lumped in e-cigarettes with banned tobacco products on campuses, and the Federal Aviation Administration has blocked their use on commercial flights.

In one sense, you've got to admire anti-smoking activists and their willingness to constantly look for new fires to put out. Like the March of Dimes, which scrambled for a new cause once polio was effectively eradicated (and found one in the all-encompassing categories of preventing birth defects and premature births), the anti-smoking movement is a victim of its own success. In the wake of increasingly high-handed bans, taxes, and regulations, smoking is everywhere in retreat. In the mid-1960s, over 40 percent of Americans smoked, compared to less than 20 percent these days. Yet it's no coincidence that the biggest decreases in smoking rates came in the early decades after the U.S. Surgeon General's 1964 report on smoking told Americans what they already knew: cigarettes were called "coffin nails" and "cancer sticks" for good goddamned reasons.

Informational campaigns about the terrible health consequences of smoking, along with restrictions on advertising and other broad-based cultural trends that valorized being in shape and not stinking like an ashtray went a long way to creating a smoke-free society. People actually respond to logic, argument, and persuasion. Who knew?

But as the percentage of Americans who smoke has stayed relatively stuck in the high teens and low twenties, the anti-smoking movement has turned to increasingly paternalistic, dictatorial, and infantilizing measures to achieve its goals. From statewide bans on smoking in more and more places to the censoring of marketing terms such as light and mild that have ushered in an age of childishly color-coded cigarette packs to plans for scrubbing smoking in movies and TV shows, there's no logical stopping point for treating us all as moral defectives incapable of making our own choices.

Indeed, taking a page from the Stalin-era Soviet Union, prohibitionists even managed to erase omnipresent cigarettes dangling from the lips of artist Jackson Pollock and bluesman Robert Johnson in iconic images used for postage stamps (would that activists had been half as successful at curbing public urination, Pollock's other signature move).

And now, the prohibitionists are taking on e-cigarettes because… because… because… smoking tobacco is bad for you. And they don't think you should decide how to live your life.

Which reminds me of a different Mencken quote about those who would control our choices: "The only guarantee of the Bill of Rights which continues to have any force and effect is the one prohibiting quartering troops on citizens in time of peace." These days, even that may be up for grabs. But there's no question that in a nanny state, all of us – even those of us who don't smoke tobacco or puff on e-cigarettes – are all treated like children incapable of making our own choices.

A version of this ran at The Daily Beast on August 25, 2013. Read it there.

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  1. I liked it, when I tried it… well, mostly.

    You had to really pull on the thing, much more than pulling on a cigarette (I’d say about as much as drinking through a straw). That said, you felt it hit your lungs and that was fairly pleasant. Exhaling smoke was fairly pleasant too.

    I don’t see it as making a true substitution for smoking until they get the pull right.

    As soon as they do? We’ll just have to figure out a way to make it look cool instead of like a bunch of dorky kids playing with candy cigarettes.

    1. My problem is i never know when i am done smoking.

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    2. Try a newer one. Blu’s are actually very similar to pulling on a cig.

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    1. They have to double-post all Jacket articles. It’s in the contract.

      1. Double-beasted.

  2. as safe as milk.

    Which of course is not regulated at all….

    Worst example EVER.

  3. I’ve been vaping variable voltage ecigs for a while, i quit smoking spring of last year and haven’t looked back. Of course these fuckers want to screw with an emerging market where the products are easy to get and very affordable. Guess I better start buying the liquid in bigger bottles, sigh.

    1. Yeah man, I’m wondering if I should stock up on heating coils and e-juice, just in case.

  4. “Informational campaigns about the terrible health consequences of smoking, along with restrictions on advertising and other broad-based cultural trends that valorized being in shape and not stinking like an ashtray went a long way to creating a smoke-free society. People actually respond to logic, argument, and persuasion. Who knew?”

    Funny thing is, I did some research on smoking a while ago and found it it’s not as bad for you as I thought. I used to think the lung cancer rate was like 50% (it’s more like 15% for a normal smoker), and that all types of cigarettes were just as bad for you (nope, “light” cigarettes actually DO filter more tar and other harmful chemicals). So guess what I think about their “information campaigns” now?

    1. Um, that they are lying cocksuckers?

      The anti-smoking movement is just as mendacious as the tobacco companies used to be and more dangerous. Because as bad as the tobacco companies were, they never forced anyone to do what they wanted. Also, at the end of the day, the tobacco companies want people to live longer so they can smoke longer. While I have actually heard anti-smokers relish lung cancer deaths.

  5. I’ve never smoked, and disliked smoke-filled rooms back when they were still around, and I appreciated it when businesses established non-smoking areas – but damned if I wouldn’t be willing to give the death penalty to these assholes who want to ban electronic cigarettes on the grounds of … just because. People like that shouldn’t be allowed to live, because if they’re willing to violate personal autonomy in such an insignificant matter you damned well know they will not hesitate to enslave others where it really counts.

  6. I guess the nanny state is not going to end until there are new amendments to the Constitution. Nicotine keeps the weight off. The problem with the e cigarettes they are very expensive.

  7. I just started the process a few days ago of quitting. I’m slowing cutting the number of smokes I have a day down to a reasonably small number.

    I had some success with this process 2 years ago and got down to only 6 cigarettes a day, but never could break that barrier. I hope to get down to that level again and then switch over to an ecig or gum.

    I’m excited to see there has been improvements to the past ecigs I’ve researched.

  8. I have a client of mine who just recently (in the past three months) opened up a small e-cig store in the town where I work.

    I blew up so fast and he made so much money that he had to quit his job in order to handle the workload.

    It saddens me that this is happening. I don’t want to see him shut down over something this stupid.

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  10. Okay as a store owner and vaper of 0% nicotine juice on a variable voltage “e-cig”, I really don’t see how this can even be in the same class as cigarettes to begin with. I make my own juice from scratch so i know what’s in it and have had to research a lot of information in order to be informed on what actually goes into the “e-cigs” a lot of the pre-manufactured disposables use a juice that is called PE400. Its not the same as the Vegetable Glycerin and Propylene Glycol mixes that go into the juices that the tanks and Cartomizers/Atomizers on the variable voltage vaporizers. If I was standing next to someone that was vaping 24mg nicotine juice you cannot tell a difference in either smell or taste. The only difference is in the “throat hit” that you get and even that can be controlled on a variable voltage. As far as the “pull” on a variable voltage you control the airflow so if you want an easier “pull” just loosen the tank a little.

    1. What this is, I’m afraid is a campaign to control something that is an unknown. It is really earlier in the life cycle of the electronic nicotine delivery system. But what most people are not aware of is that 0% of the smoking population has gotten cancer from nicotine. The cancer comes from the other pollutants that tobacco companies have added to the tobacco. And inhaling burnt (ash) of the leaves themselves. The nicotine which is highly addictive keeps them coming back for more. I smoked for 30 years prior to trying the variable voltage, now I’m that guy that cannot stand the smell of a cigarette and have that assy reaction to getting a whiff outside. I stepped down from 24mg of nicotine and now vape 0% nicotine for the flavor. Some days I don’t vape at all but honestly it tastes and smells good. The shop always has a sweet flavorful aroma.

      1. All I am saying is educate yourself and ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS, don’t be a lemming and follow the pack. Learn for yourself. This is an affront to the tobacco industry they want to control tobacco they can have it, all smokers are truly addicted to is the nicotine. Nicotine doesn’t only come in tobacco. It can be derived from a BUNCH of different places. This isn’t even worthy of debate. Below are the ingredients of my favorite juice and the ingredients of my favorite cigarette, you tell me which you would want to inhale. The decision was simple for me.

        1. Favorite Juice: Ginny Peach
          50% Vegetable Glycerin
          50% Propylene Glycol
          Steeped Ginger Peach tea leaves in 50/50 mixture on candle warmer for one hour. Add 10 drops of Lorann oils pure peach flavoring.

          Favorite Cigarette: Camel Light
          Tobacco
          Water
          Glycerol
          High Fructose Corn Syrup
          Propylene Glycol
          Cellulose Fiber
          Cocoa
          Licorice
          Diammonium Phosphate
          Ammonium Hydroxide
          Natural & Artificial Flavors
          REF: RJ Reynolds website http://www.rjrt.com/brandcompounds.aspx

          1. I decided I wanted to control what I inhaled and that’s apparently where people have the issue. I don’t need nicotine to vape, and I have to say that the reason I started smoking in 1982 was just to look cool, not to get addicted to a drug (nicotine)If this 0% alternative would have been available? I would not have bought the three CEO’s of RJ Reynolds that have had the chair in my smoking career, their Bentleys. You can’t say that doesn’t scare some tobacco big guys. I just hope the naysayers educate themselves. Long time smokers can survive the addiction to cigarettes. This is our out. And now we can finally do away with bog tobacco. VAPE ON!

  11. This is the other side of the coin of asking the government for free shit; something liberals do not seem to understand, or they just don’t care.

  12. duffythomas, you are right it is expensive. But in long run it will less costly then real Cigarette. When you compare both you find you have save plenty of rupees using E Cigarette.

    E Cigarette in UK

  13. and inhaled (users are called “vapers”). Some e-cigarettes look

  14. contemporary anti-smoking activists, that dour

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