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Steve Marriott was a talented songwriter and guitar player who fronted seminal rock bands Humble Pie and The Small Faces. As was de rigueur for rock musicians at the time, he was also an egomaniacal jerk, drug addict and alcoholic. In April of 1991, he decided to light up a fag in bed after a night of carousing and died of smoke inhalation in the resulting fire.
He was not alone. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in the United States, over 4000 fires a year are caused by smokers, resulting in about 500 deaths and 1000 injuries. Of course, Marriott died in England. I can’t find the morbidity and mortality stats, but smoking appears to be responsible for about 2800 fires in Great Britain every year. If they were proportional to the U. S., that would mean 350 deaths and 700 injures.
What if e-cigs had been a thing in 1991? Somehow, I doubt that Marriott would now be on the geezers’ tour along with surviving members of The Small Faces and Humble Pie. To (mis)quote Donald Westlake, guys like that don’t last. There’s a good probability that he would have been dead of an overdose or cirrhosis or some other misadventure before the Y2K disaster. I can, however, guarantee that if had been a vaper instead of a smoker he would not have died in a house fire.
I don’t use either regular or e-cigarettes, but I’ve always been surprised by the antipathy to vaping. It’s definitely less nasty than smoking. As a libertarian, I oppose the mandatory bans on smoking in public places. I will admit, however, that bars and restaurants are more pleasant than before those bans. I’ve also hung around vapers; they put out large clouds of mist that quickly dissipate and leave no smell, haze in the air or dirty film on tables.
My friends who have switched from smoking to vaping have nothing but praise for e-cigarettes; they report improved health and none of them want to go back to coffin nails. Of course, this is anecdotal. Nevertheless, it appears that vaping has put a big dent in cigarette sales. I’ll bet makers of nicotine patches and anti-smoking counselors are not happy either… and I think we’ve figured out where the opposition to e-cigs comes from.
Back in August, I read an article in Medscape: First Likely Vaping Death Reported in the US. Here are the first paragraphs:
An individual who had recently vaped and was hospitalized with severe respiratory illness in Illinois has died, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in a news briefing.
It’s the first death potentially linked to e-cigarette use.
In an update to an ongoing investigation, the CDC said today that, as of August 22, there are 193 potential cases of severe lung disease in 22 states that could be caused by e-cigarettes and vaping. That’s 40 more cases than a day earlier, when the CDC reported a total of 153 possible cases, as reported by Medscape Medical News.
Notice all the weasel words in that report: Likely, potentially, could be? I have some questions. What underlying health problems did the patient have? What was the substance used in the vaping device? I tried to find actual details of the case online, without luck.
Now it’s several weeks later and, mirabile dictu, the number of respiratory cases is over 400, and the number of deaths is either 4 or 6 or 7. Again, the details are hard to find, but it appears that various illegal and unauthorized substances have been used in those vaping devices. In that case, it is not the device that’s the problem. If you go blind after putting acid in an eyedropper, the eyedropper is not the cause, dying after drinking strychnine from a sippy cup doesn’t mean we need sippy cup control.
I don’t know if there are any long-term adverse effects from vaping. Neither does anyone else. I do know that nobody has died from a fire caused by an e-cigarette. How do I know that? Because if it happened, that would national news for weeks.
Vaping helps people stop smoking; even if vaping causes long-term health problems, it would be really hard for those to be worse than the effects of smoking. Of course, we are hearing none of this. Instead, we are subjected to a constant barrage of reports about a small number of people who have misused the product.
We’ve seen this before. A vanishingly small percentage of legal gun owners misuse their weapons and the solution is to ban guns. This, of course, will leave the vast majority of law-abiding gun owners vulnerable to criminals.
The Earth’s climate is changing and the effects, both good and bad, are currently unknown. Some of this change may be caused by mankind’s use of fossil fuels. Again, how much this affects the climate is also unknown. The bad effects of climate change are publicized and exaggerated while the good effects are almost never mentioned. Instead of working on decreasing the bad outcomes and increasing the good, the solution is to get rid of fossil fuels. This, of course, will impoverish us and make it less likely that we’ll have the resources to actually address the problem.
So, I’m not buying the hysteria about vaping. Even if all the bad outcomes being raved about are caused by vaping, it’s still safer than most other vices. Maybe I’ll check it out myself.