Zaleski: Vaping, vapers get double stupid

The evolving scandal for vaping health risk reads as a replay of the revelations that revealed the crimes of big tobacco a generation ago. At that time, the greedy corporate criminals who owned the tobacco companies developed a successful strategy that used fake science and clever advertising lies to mask what they knew to be true: that smoking caused cancer, that smoking was a killer, and to have children addicted to cigarettes was important for their long-term profits. As concerns about nicotine and smoking escalated in public, companies' ads showed "little" cigarettes or "little nicotine" or new filters, which did nothing to reduce the health consequences of smoking. The ads worked for a while. Good science, first in the form of the Surgeon General's report on smoking from 1[ads1]964, exposed the tobacco companies' quarrels and ultimately proved them to be among the most notorious liars in US business history.

The vaping industry – and make no mistake about it, vapers constitute a multi-billion dollar industry – has turned out the same style of prevarication and half-truths that worked well for a while for big tobacco. It's also no coincidence that some of the money behind vaping brands is tobacco companies' money. It all turns out to be a facade of throwers who quickly collapse under the control of medical science and the news of more and more gun-related deaths and lung disease.

The vaping industry got off to a good start by claiming vaping was a fantastic and a safe way for smokers to quit cigarettes. Sounds good, and it worked for someone who bought into the field. But in short order it was clear that vaping was not safe and possibly just as bad or worse for a vaper's health than smoking tobacco. The menu of diseases that are apparently caused by the inhalation of the substances in the smoke created by weapons units has alarmed the medical environment and laid the lie to the vaping public's assertion that vaping is harmless. The industry's use of flavoring and benign sounding names such as "bubblegum" and "cinnamon" is a cynical attempt to hook children into vaping. It's a page from the big tobacco old playbook. People who benefit from it, whether it is large companies or a small store in Fargo, are enabling a public health crisis.

Finally, vaping is doubly stupid. It's stupid because inhalation of toxins like wounds and kills is not smart. And it's stupid because it looks very dumb. It's a cartoonish, almost ridiculous aspect of an otherwise rational adult sucking on a plastic or metal tube and inhaling / exhaling a cloud of toxins. Stupid, funny, tragic.


My column last Sunday about Galileo and Pope Urban VIII used the snarky phrase, "for the historically challenged." It might have been aimed at me because I made a historical mistake: I placed Galileo in the 1400s. Error. It all happened in the 17th century. My mistake. My being – for a moment – historically challenged.

I assumed I had Johannes Gutenberg on my mind because I had been working on another writing project where the 1500s inventor of the printing press gets a mention. Still, it is me, as a few readers pointed out, to misunderstand Galileo's time.

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