Vaping Panic Ignores How E-Cigarettes Save Lives

H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." The rub against vaping, and other smokeless tobacco products, is that people enjoy it.


During a public meeting of California's official tobacco committee, formed largely to divvy up the proceeds of a large tobacco-tax hike approved by voters in 2016, commissioners bemoaned the small number of smokers who took advantage of official Food and Drug Administration-approved products that help smokers quit their deadly habit. Some people use nicotine gum, patches, and nasal sprays, but not enough to satisfy the regulators.

The next item on their agenda was vaping. Large numbers of ex-smokers do in fact use these e-cigarettes and vape pens, which are 95 percent safer than combustible cigarettes, according to a well-respected British public health agency. Without any sense of irony, the commissioners sought ways to stamp out this menace—and one insisted that vaping was just another form of smoking. I chalked it up to a frustrating Puritanism among health officials.

The great Baltimore journalist H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." The rub against vaping, and other smokeless tobacco products, is that people enjoy it. Nicotine addicts get their nicotine buzz, have an excuse to take a break from work and chat with other "smokers," yet avoid most of the ill effects of smoking. It's a great example of how the marketplace promotes public health better than government hectorers.

Indeed, California lawmakers, at the state and local level, have been waging a war against vaping products for several years. San Francisco has outright banned the sale of e-cigarettes, even as it embraces marijuana retailers and promotes safe-injection sites for hard-core drug users. Other localities target vaping by forbidding flavored-tobacco sales. Because virtually all vape liquids are flavored, this becomes a de facto ban. Los Angeles County now is advancing such a measure.

The latest news has energized health activists who already want to banish vaping. More than 500 people have contracted a lung-related disorder tied to vaping, with 90 of them in California. Eleven people have died nationwide and two have died in our state. This troubling news has led officials in Michigan and New York to temporarily ban sales of vaping products. It even led the Trump administration, which usually is immune to such hysteria, to direct the FDA to ban vape sales.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see California officials take an unusually restrained approach. "There are numerous unknown factors at this time, and due to the uncertainty of the exact cause, it is our recommendation that consumers refrain from vaping until the investigation has concluded," said Acting Health Officer Charity Dean. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order directing state health officials to launch a public awareness campaign to educate people "about the health risks of vaping nicotine and cannabis products."

That's exactly what health officials should do. They're not supposed to insist on abstinence for all products and behaviors that are less than ideal, but to urge caution while researchers figure out what is going on. The new illnesses aren't necessarily tied to commercially available vaping products, but may be the result of people who use vape pens in ways that they weren't designed to be used.

Investigations theorize that the illnesses might be related to—and, yes, I'm hedging because no one knows anything definitive yet—black-market vape cartridges that use marijuana-based oils. "Illegal cannabis dispensaries sell unregulated and untested cannabis products and absolutely should not be used," according to a statement from the California health agency. It's absurd to ban legitimate vaping products if illegitimate ones are to blame.

If cities, counties, and states ban the sales of commercially tested products, then underground products will become more prevalent. We apparently have to constantly relearn the lessons of Prohibition. When the sale of spirits, wine, and beer were criminalized, people bought underground hooch. They often got sick and died. We wouldn't blame legal spirits for illnesses caused by bathtub gin.

What about the epidemic of teen vaping?

It's a serious problem, but not that different than what teens have been doing forever. When I was a teen-ager, my friends snuck outside of school to smoke cigarettes, drink beer and smoke joints. We don't outlaw the sales of wine and flavored vodka—or firearms or marijuana, for that matter—to adults because young people might get them from older siblings or friends. I'm not downplaying concerns, but the best approach is to enforce age-limit laws and try to teach our kids not to do insanely stupid things.

Let's calm down and see where the evidence takes us. But one part of the debate needs to remain in focus: vaping is a safer—not safe, but safer—alternative to smoking cigarettes. Nearly a half-million people die a year in the United States from tobacco-related illnesses. We should not eliminate one promising way to slash that depressing number, even if vaping does give consternation to health nannies who prefer that we inhale nothing but air.

This column was first published by the Orange County Register.

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  1. “What about the epidemic of teen vaping?
    It’s a serious problem…”


    1. Because you can’t stop teenagers from being teenagers. It’s funny though, the progs who are freaking out the most about vaping probably wouldn’t care so much if they knew their kids were actually vaping THC (which I suspect most of them are-more kids actually are using weed now than tobacco or nicotine), but because there’s big bad tobacco to blame, they go after that.

    2. The rationale is that because kids are not adults, they cannot make some decisions for themselves. Goes right along with statutory rape, can’t sign contracts, etc.

      It’s also pays to bear in mind that “teens” is shorthand for “kids”, not usually including 18- and 19-year olds.

      1. According to neurobiologists, the human brain isn’t mature (can’t make rational decisions) until around age 25, so now, the enlightened beings at the UN say that technically, anyone under that age is a child, but somehow, they think that 14 year olds are rational enough to vote

        1. And scold the world on AGW.

  2. We got trouble, right here in River City. It starts with ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘V’ and that stands for VAPE.

    1. Seventy six woke progs led the big parade….

      1. Seventy six woke progs led the big charade

  3. This has nothing to do with health, it has to do with control of the individual.

  4. Keep in mind that the biggest vaping brand, Juul, is owned by Altria (formerly Philip Morris) so it’s obviously a plot by Big Tobacco to entice kids into smoking.* It’s not as if they might be shifting their product line from cigarettes to vaping products, corporations are well-known for being evil and greedy, not smart.

    *Actual argument heard on NPR from a news analyst who said she was “puzzled” as to why Altria would offer a product that directly competes with its own main product line. Somebody should tell her that Chevy and GMC trucks are both made by the same company and really blow her mind.

    1. Juul is still privately held; Altria bought a 35% stake in it last year and just replaced the Juul CEO with one of their own. In other words, Juul was a big thing with teens long before Altria had anything to do with it, but you can’t expect prog journalists to do their homework…

  5. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $30h – $72h…how? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

    Heres what I’ve been doing…  ,,,

    CLICK HERE►► Read More

  6. When beer was a felony and ticket to a no-bill for dry killers, added to the thousands of deaths caused by government-mandated addition of methanol to ethanol were crippling substitutes like Jamaica Ginger containing tricresyl phosphate. Demand for German heroin increased so steeply that President Hoover gave Germany a Moratorium on Brains in exchange for a signature on a drug convention. Germany then spent war reparations money on Hitler’s party and rearmament instead of paying back France and Belgium.

  7. Massachusetts also banned the sale of any vaping products in the state for the next four months. This was hysteria-driven anti-science by the liberal cranks surrounding RINO Gov. Baker.

    It’s already putting retail outlets out of business and there’s a lawsuit by a handful of shops against the Baker administration for its capricious use of declaring vaping a health emergency.

    Never mind that more people die from peanut allergies every year or that actual cigarettes kill FAR more people than vaping. Or that these vaping illnesses are only happening in the United States, leading anyone with a brain to deduce it’s not e-cigs but rather illegal TCH cartridges.

    Or that the UK’s equivalent FDA and CDC both recommend e-cigs over cigarettes because they are 95% safer and leave no particulates in the air as secondhand smoke does. These bans are not about safety but about control. And they’re not letting a good crisis go to waste.

    1. Just to add. Although you would not think so from the press even the CDC has not said that current cigarette smokers who cannot quit by other means should not switch to commercial vapes. Nor have they recommended that former smokers maintained on vapes quit.

  8. I have been following the reports carefully and the CDC notifications. Not a single case has been linked to anyone using only commercial nicotine vape products.

  9. It it utterly disgusting that this is article promoting the safety and portraying questionable facts of life saving of smokers. It will take 20 years to determine the damage caused by vaping. How many times is it needed for people to be sold the same old song when they don’t know what the hazards are? Vaping is not just water vapor which is the first big lie. The chemicals added into the vaping is the same stuff in stage smoke machines. Long contact with that is not known but be on a stage while one is on and your feel the pain in your throat pretty quick.

    Quitting smoking highest success is just stopping. The nicotine is out of the system within 24 hours. There is far more success with just cold turkey than some false claims of life saving cures through vaping.

    Now the same industry that told us the safety of smoking along with Doctors doing ads espousing the best doctor spoke X brand are getting paid to say the same false claims. The same bloodsuckers are now after children to get them hooked on nicotine which runs out of the body in 15 min, requiring another fix.

    Why don’t they sell it honestly. Nicotine delivery system that uses unknown chemicals to deliver an addictive chemical that has no positive health or physical benefits and can reasonably be assumed to be harmful.

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