If You Don't Understand It, Ban It

No one is going to argue that smoking is a filthy habit.  However, this neo-fascism that has arisen among the ranks of non-smokers goes too far.  When I see commercials showing teens using Jackass-inspired tactics to encourage people to quit smoking, my first reaction is to reach for a cigarette.  However, I understand that continued smoking will make it harder for me to live the kind of life I want to live.  What to do?

Enter the electronic cigarette.  I'm not going to waste time and space explaining them here.  If you don't know what they are, Google them.  Anyway, the Mrs. and I have both been almost completely tobacco-free since we started using these things more than six months ago.  Her asthma attacks have been greatly reduced and we don't smell like my grandmother's dentures anymore.  Life is good, right?  Not so fast...

I came across this article today on WebMD.  As a scientist (or something resembling one), I was shocked at the lack of empirical evidence in this article.  The doctors quoted continually say things like, "We cannot say they are good or bad because we don't have any scientific proof," and, "There are no clinical studies of long-term use of these products."  However, despite this dearth of clinical data, the FDA seems to be seriously considering banning electronic cigarettes. 

Dr. Norman Edelman, the chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, asks, "What happens to someone who stops inhaling the tars of cigarettes and just inhales nicotine? We don't know."  And yet the article states that "the Nicotrol inhaler is an approved smoking cessation device."  Well, what's the difference, Dr. Edelman?  Is it because one is regulated and the other one is not?  Is it because the propylene glycol vapor is dangerous all of a sudden, forgetting the fact that it's been safely used in night clubs and theatrical productions for decades?  Hey, here's a crazy idea: why not regulate the electronic cigarette just like the nicotine inhaler?  Oh, you don't want to go through all the cost and trouble of those pesky clinical trials?  Fine, regulate it like tobacco.  Just keep those damned tobacco taxes off of the electronic smokes since they're not a tobacco product. 

Why is it that even our supposedly finest scientific minds are subject to the knee-jerk reaction of banning what they don't understand?  Isn't it the role of the scientist to study and to understand?  Maybe I'm missing something here.  I'm sure there a lobbyist at work somewhere in this tangled mess.

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