Consumption of cigarettes is the leading cause of preventable death in this country. David Abrams, a professor at New York University’s College of Global Public Health, estimates that 1,300 people die from smoking every day. The life expectancy of a cigarette smoker is said to be a decade less than someone who has never smoked.
Vaping is a method of taking in nicotine, via e-cigarettes, that unlike smoking cigarettes, does not involve the intake of tar. And it is tar that causes the cancer that produces death. If cigarette smokers switch to vaping, they are far less likely to die from the habit.
Already smokers’ lives are in the process of being saved, thanks to vaping. Its advent has led to a significant reduction in the consumption of cigarettes.
Recently, however, there have been half a dozen vaping-related deaths, and a significantly larger number of vaping-related hospitalizations. This development, coupled with concerns that teenagers are becoming addicted to vaping (a concern I discussed here), has led to serious attempts to curb, if not eliminate, the practice.
President Trump is part of the attempt. He’s proposing a ban on all e-cigarettes except those with a tobacco taste. The sale of flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol, would be prohibited. Because flavored e-cigarettes are attractive to many, the proposed ban would reduce vaping and thus reduce the number of lives it saves.
The editors of National Review take exception to what they call “the absurd campaign against vaping.” They note, among other important points, that the current rash of vaping-related deaths and hospitalizations seems to be related almost exclusively to the use of illegal THC-based vaping cartridges.
Most products, if abused, can result in serious negative consequences. Automobiles are pretty safe unless one decides to drive them with extreme recklessness.
Many people do, and the death toll is considerable. Yet, we don’t ban automobiles.
Moreover, in the case of vaping the number of lives that will be saved by substituting e-cigarettes for the real thing likely exceeds the number of deaths from vaping by a factor of many, many thousands.
Banning or restricting vaping because of episodic abuse of vaping devices by retailers and consumers would deprive millions of people of an enormous benefit because a relatively small number of people behave irresponsibly. Unfortunately, this sort of misguided government intervention is becoming increasingly common.
The problem is the decline of the concept of individual responsibility. If one dismisses the concept and treats those who abuse products like e-cigarettes as helpless victims rather than as agents, the government has an excuse to deprive those who behave responsibly of these products and their benefits. The government is all too eager to take advantage of the opportunity.
In this way, society is reduced to its lowest common denominator. The many cannot enjoy or benefit from a product if the very few are unable or unwilling to use it properly. And there will always be a few who are unable or unwilling.
This is a formula for societal rot.
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