It's long been known that the most dangerous place in Washington is anywhere that's between New York Sen. Charles Schumer and a TV camera.
The latest outburst from the man who has attacked (in no particular order) Four Loko and Joose, yoga mats, breakfast cereal prices, Bitcoin, 3D-printed guns, drones, payday lenders, laundry detergent that looks good enough to eat, video games, and so much more? Electronic cigarettes, which are helping people quit smoking traditional tobacco products and might potentially save a billion lives.
The proximate cause for Schumer's latest crusade? Malfunctions involving battery packs that have apparently led to sometimes serious injuries. Reports the Daily News:
"Where there's smoke, there's fire and that seems to be the case, again and again, for many popular e-cigarettes that have injured dozens of people," Schumer said.
"With any other product, serious action would have been taken, and e-cigarettes should be no exception. Despite the explosions, no recalls have been issued. It's radio silence from both the industry and the feds."
OK, what's the frequency of such incidents, to get some perspective?
More than 2.5 million Americans are using e-cigarettes, according to industry estimates. According to the FDA, there were 92 incidents of overheating, fire or explosion in e-cigarettes across the country between 2009 and September of 2015.
The FDA said 45 incidents injured 47 people, and 67 incidents involved property damage beyond the product.
Manufacturers of defective and dangerous devices should be held accountable (and doubtless will be, if their products are poorly designed and systematically dangerous). But the incident rate is hardly grounds for industry-wide recalls and the sort of clamp-down that Schumer supports. But then again, Schumer has long been anti-vaping and e-cigarettes, so he's happy to use any and every incident to push his longstanding agenda. Now that he's Senate Minority Leader, get used to him being in the news even more than usual. For the next four. long. years.
Read Anthony Fisher on one of Schumer's rare moments of restraint: when it came to tracking bad cops.
It's not just Schumer who's trying to crack down on vaping, of course. The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading the charge, especially in developing nations where tobacco is still a growing industry. Which makes no sense at all.