In recent weeks – amid a drip-drip-drip of stories about illnesses and, tragically, deaths among users of vaping products – there has been an almost palpable glee emanating from the ranks of the professional anti-tobacco activists.
With tobacco use rates at historic lows, the anti-tobacco people have been looking for a new dragon to slay so they can keep their jobs. They’ve been yearning for that dragon to be vaping. After all, some vaping products kind of look like cigarettes, and like smoking, it’s pretty much just a delivery system for nicotine or THC.
The problem for the zealots in this modern-day temperance movement is vaping, while certainly not a healthy activity, is significantly healthier than smoking. So when illnesses and deaths among vapers started making headlines, these people got pretty excited.
They may also have gotten pretty far ahead of themselves. According to the news yesterday from researchers at the world-famous Mayo Clinic, the cause behind those vaping illnesses is “not what we thought it was.”
This is from the New York Times:
“All 17 of our cases show a pattern of injury in the lung that looks like a toxic chemical exposure, a toxic chemical fume exposure, or a chemical burn injury,” said Dr. Brandon T. Larsen, a surgical pathologist at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. “To be honest, they look like the kind of change you would expect to see in an unfortunate worker in an industrial accident where a big barrel of toxic chemicals spills, and that person is exposed to toxic fumes and there is a chemical burn in the airways.”
It’s a little confusing, but essentially the sicknesses and deaths among vapers were more likely caused by a specific product than the practice of vaping itself. It could be the ingredients in the vaping oils being used, or perhaps the materials used in the vaping devices themselves.
This, if true, would not be an indictment of vaping, generally, despite the desperate yearnings of the professional scolds, but rather some bad actors working in either the legal vaping industry or in the black market. The latter is a genuine possibility given that over 70 percent of the cases of illness and death related to vaping has involved THC or marijuana-related products.
The vaping industry has been a bit of wild west. There is no doubt a need for some additional oversight to ensure that vaping oils and devices are made safely. The shadow market our government has created for marijuana products, with a federal ban persisting even as states implement a hodgepodge of legalization, hasn’t helped on this front.
But those looking to use this recent spate of vaping-related maladies to push for further vaping restrictions or bans are rank opportunists.
Remember, vaping has been around in the United States for some time now. Millions upon millions of people using vaping products every day. While these recent incidents of hundreds of illnesses, and a few deaths, are certainly tragic and nothing to minimize, let’s be sure to keep them in context.