Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

May 16, 2014

Editorial: E-cigarettes are about addiction, not 'choice'

The tobacco industry spent tens of millions over 60 years or more to control the conversation about smoking.

The aim was to direct the debate away from any talk of controlling tobacco use or the hundreds of chemicals added to cigarettes and other tobacco products and the very real, very deadly health risks.

The conversation was instead to be about freedom of choice, period, the god-given right of every red-blooded American to light up whenever and wherever he or she chose.

Not nicotine addition, not lung cancer or emphysema or the dozens of other diseases related to tobacco use, not deadly second-hand smoke, not stinking clothes or smoke-filled bars and restaurants.

To their discredit they got away with it for a very long time. Right up until widespread bans went into effect, it was still about choice for those who smoked but zero choice for those who didn’t but had to suffer the consequences.

Finally, the truth about the health risks of smoking began to emerge. Many restaurant and bar owners began to ban smoking. Communities and states finally realized this was more about second-hand smoke and public health than someone’s supposed “right” to poison his neighbor.

Even today, the full realization of just how addictive nicotine really is and that millions of smokers were actually addicts — just ask someone who has struggled to quit — is just now sinking in.

But it’s not yet widely understood that the nicotine pushers are still at it. They’ve just changed their delivery vehicle. Instead of tobacco it’s now e-cigarettes, electronic gadgets that simulate smoking by using vapor to deliver “smokers” their dose of nicotine, just like in the good old days.

And just like the good old days, the industry is relying on the phony “personal choice” argument to keep us from calling them out and talking about the spreading use of e-cigarettes.

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