E-Cigarettes Are Bad Because They Look Like Cigarettes; E-Hookahs Are Worse Because They Don't


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The main rap against e-cigarettes, as summarized by the Los Angeles Times in its story about that city's brand-new ban on vaping in public, is that they look so much like the real thing that they could "make smoking socially acceptable after years of public opinion campaigns to discourage the habit," thereby "undermining a half-century of successful tobacco control." By contrast, the main rap against e-hookahs, as explained by The New York Times today, is that they are "shrewdly marketed to avoid the stigma associated with cigarettes of any kind." They do not look like hookahs, but neither do they resemble conventional cigarettes, since these vapor-emitting cylinders "come in a rainbow of colors and candy-sweet flavors." In fact, they are so distinctive in appearance and branding that people who buy them do not necessarily identify themselves as e-cigarette users.

Why is that a problem? Apparently because this fuzziness about the name of the product makes life more complicated for social scientists:

The emergence of e-hookahs and their ilk is frustrating public health officials who are already struggling to measure the spread of e-cigarettes, particularly among young people. The new products and new names have health authorities wondering if they are significantly underestimating use because they are asking the wrong questions when they survey people about e-cigarettes.

Is there any other objection to e-hookahs? "Beneath the surface," the Times warns, "they are often virtually identical to e-cigarettes, right down to their addictive nicotine and unregulated swirl of other chemicals." That "unregulated swirl" sounds scary, but the components of e-cigarette vapor—mainly propylene glycol and water, plus nicotine and flavoring—are vastly preferable to the complicated mixture of toxins and carcinogens generated by burning tobacco. The Times offers no evidence that e-cigarettes, by whatever name they are called, pose a significant hazard to consumers or bystanders.

So what are those "public health officials" worried about, aside from the need to revise their survey questions? The Times says they worry that calling e-cigarettes "e-hookahs," "vape pipes," "vape pens," or "hookah pens" instead of e-cigarettes "will lead to increased nicotine use and, possibly, prompt some people to graduate to cigarettes." The logic here eludes me: People who are attracted to e-hookahs because they want nothing to do with smoking will change their minds because…?

Although many smokers have switched to vaping, the Times, which is running a series on e-cigarettes, does not seem to have located a single example of a vaper who switched to smoking. As far as I know, neither has any other news outlet. Although that transition is theoretically possible, the evidence suggests it is not very common. The recent increase in vaping among teenagers has been accompanied by a continued decline in smoking, and in a 2013 survey of 1,300 college students, only one respondent reported vaping before he started smoking. The lead researcher said "it didn't seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything."

To sum up: E-cigarettes are bad because they look like cigarettes. E-hookahs are worse because they don't. Using either of them might lead to smoking, although we can't find any real-life examples of that. Fruity flavors show these products are aimed at children—or maybe at young women, middle-aged actresses, or old Arab men. But the point is, they are aimed at somebody, and the companies selling them clearly are trying to make them appealing, which cannot be tolerated.

NEXT: Canada Not Interested in Legalizing Marijuana, Would Like to Give Cops the Power to Ticket Marijuana Users Instead

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  1. It’s amazing how we supposedly live in a scientific era of enlightenment and yet we are plagued by animists as if this were the era of cavemen.

  2. So what will happen when Pot is legal? Will the act of smoking it be banned?

  3. Chicago is fighting hard to ban these things. Not because of how they look but because the city and county receives a shit ton of revenue from tobacco products. They can’t really tax e-cigs because of the mechanics but they can tax tobacco. Basically, the city has an incentive to keep people smoking because if not, they as I said above lose a crap ton of revenue.

    If I didn’t have roots or family in this city, I would have moved years ago.

    1. They have these things called “suburbs”.

      They’re just as bad though. It took until yesterday for Naperville to finally un-ban ear piercing.

  4. To sum up: E-cigarettes are bad because they look like cigarettes. E-hookahs are worse because they don’t..

    And meanwhile, here in NYC and probably elsewhere, real hookah will be the only nicotine product that is perfectly legal indoors because…?

    1. CONTROL

    2. Also, like, its like sorta Indian, and therefore cultural, and not corporate-y and stuff./DERP

  5. “…the main rap against e-hookahs, as explained by The New York Times today, is that they are “shrewdly marketed to avoid the stigma associated with cigarettes of any kind…”

    The NYT also once shrewdly pointed out that shrewd gun manufacturers shrewdly complied with the technical letter of the Assault-Weapons-Ban law, and somehow shrewdly managed to still sell actual *guns* having bullet-buttons, no flash hiders or pistol grips or bayonets… which was later construed by the paper as having found “Loopholes” in the law = Not “complying!” with the law, but doing something *vewy sneaky* by actually doing what it said rather than what it *intended*.

    I actually saw this very point repeated over and over again in print and in the major news networks = they called actual compliance, ‘loopholes’.

    The NYT will never state outright that the actual point of the laws they support is for direct control of human behavior – but rather they will just huff and stamp their feet and tut-tut and pearl clutch when their laws fail to achieve their glorious and wonderfully motivated intentions.

    so the details of these ‘nicotine delivery vehicles’ is completely irrelevant. The intent is for people to stop thinking there’s ANYTHING OK about it. Until they reach that point, there’s a problem somewhere.

  6. e-hookahs? When did loving traditional hookahs become bad? I think the majority of Americans are in favor of traditional use of the hookah.

  7. Emily Anne McDonald, an anthropologist at the University of California, San Francisco who is studying e-cigarette use among young people, said the lack of public education about the breadth of nicotine-vapor products was creating a vacuum “so that young adults are getting information from marketing and from each other.”

    The horror!!! There’s not enough propaganda!!! To the ban cave.

  8. Have they come up with E Joints yet?

    1. Google “Grasshopper vaporizer”. I’d link, but i’m at work.

    2. For the end user, the equipment should be the same. Battery, atomizer, tank, and coils.

      Just a matter of if chemistry wizards can create liquid THC.

      1. Oils are widely available. You need a different temperature for vaporizing it, though. Waxes are also used, and the mechanism is even simpler.

      2. And they have. There are hash oil cartridges that you can get, and those are generally the gold standard people use. But the best product, for use in a traditional e-cig, is called PureGold.

  9. So it sounds like there is an opportunity for some attention whore (ala Fluke) to graduate from e-cigs to real smokes and then go on the circuit testifying to how they were tricked and trapped into a life time of smoking by these gateway drugs?

    Fuck, I bet someone could really cash in on that. Start a bidding war for your testimony between the CDC and the American Lung dudes.

    Bonus points if you already had cancer and said it was caused by your first puff of a real smoke.

  10. This is like when they outlawed virtual child porn, i.e. porn that involved no actual children but were fictional text, drawings, etc. on the subject. Dragging the pivot foot of justif’ns.

  11. ECigs normalize NOT smoking.
    Anti-eCig and anti-smoking groups normalize fascism.
    Smoking represented liberty, freedom, rebellion, heroes, strength, focus. Determination.
    Maybe we should all go back to smoking.
    I miss America.

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