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The obscene political assault on vaping

Like many absolute fools, I took up smoking in my late teens. The reasons are too many and varied to get into: the fact that the smoking areas created by Micheál Martin were generally the quietest and best places to talk to women was probably a factor. Feeling slightly rebellious was another. In any case, it’s up there with the worst decisions I have ever made in my life and, like most people, there are a few of those to choose from.

In any case, I smoked – and properly smoked, now – for about fifteen years. 20 a day. I knew it was bad for me, and bad for my wallet. I noticed that my fitness declined (from a low base) and that colds were much more severe than they once were, and, of course, the whole house stank. But I was thoroughly addicted, and could not quit. I tried cold turkey. I tried patches. I tried reading Alan Carr’s book. None of it worked.

Until, that is, I discovered e-cigarettes.

Let me say something here about e-cigarettes: I am fully aware that they may kill me, some day. I am aware that as an early adopter, my lungs may one day be studied in a lab and used as evidence that e-cigarettes are a terrible, harmful thing. But that is a risk I have willingly chosen, because I know some other things, too: I know that since I switched from cigarettes to vaping, my fitness has recovered to a more acceptable level. I no longer experience shortness of breath, or coughing fits, or all the other things that cursed me when I was a smoker. My blood pressure, once high, is now, my doctor says, a remarkably solid 100/70. Vaping might kill me. Cigarettes definitely would have.

All of this is a lengthy introduction to an article about the nanny state, but a necessary one, I think, if only to explain to the reader the reasons why this story yesterday came very close to inspiring me to take up arms against my own Government:

A BAN ON flavoured e-cigarettes, e-cigarette ads on social media and bright packaging are just some of the restrictions recommended in a report on pre-legislative scrutiny on a public health bill published on the weekend.

The Oireachtas joint committee on health compiled suggestions for the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill 2019 after meeting with health specialists and representatives of the vaping industry.

A key recommendation was that the bill should regulate the flavouring of e-cigarettes and that all flavours except for tobacco, should be strictly prohibited so as not to entice minors.

All of this, by the way, on the same day that a report was revealing that the most recent nanny state intervention – minimum alcohol pricing – has been an abject failure.

Note the concerns that are being expressed here: There are, it is said, too many vaping teenagers, these days. One might have thought that those teenagers vaping, and not smoking, would be a cause for celebration. But the number one rule of the nanny state is this: Its work is never done. Once one thing has been banned, another thing must follow. If the vapes disappear, it will next be fast food. If it is then fast food that goes, it will then be fizzy drinks. The nanny industry (and it is an industry) is never satisfied.

Note too that vaping, more than anything that the nanny state has done, has reduced cigarette useage. There will be those who assert, because they always do, that high taxes did for smoking. That is only half true: High taxes did for smoking in part because a newer, healthier, cheaper alternative emerged from the marketplace. There are kids vaping today, yes, and perhaps that is bad. But it is also true that twenty years ago, those kids would have been burning their way through a packet of John Player Blue. But there is no such thing as progress for the nanny state: Only new kinds of bad behaviour.

In fact, and this is a rare statement from me: I strongly encourage readers to read the full report of the Oireachtas Committee’s recommendation in the Journal, linked above. Observe what’s missing from it:

Any evidence at all of harm.

You might think, if the Government proposed to ban something, it might first need overwhelming evidence that the thing it intended to ban was causing harm. In the case of e-cigarettes, that evidence simply is not there. What evidence there is is, at this stage, speculative and inconclusive. It may well emerge in 30 years that they do cause harm, but it might just as well also emerge that they do not. In  any case, given their emergence as a smoking substitute, the standard should not be “do they cause harm” but rather “do they cause more or less harm than smoking”?

But none of this matters, apparently, to our politicians. The reasons given for the proposed ban are simply that too many teenagers are using them, which is also, I might note, an argument for banning Playstation 5s across the country. (And we’ll get there, mind you, when they get around to nannying obesity levels).

So, amid all this, let me just say this: E-cigarettes improved my quality of life. They have done the same, anecdotally, for many other ex-smokers.  This proposed legislation would cause great upheaval, not only in my life, but in the lives of many others.

And there’s a reason, by the way, that we vape blueberry and strawberry and mint and lemon flavoured e-cigarettes. We don’t demand those flavours because we are three years old and like sweet things: We demand them because vaping tobacco-flavoured vaping products reminds us too much what we are missing from cigarettes themselves. It is the easiest way to make a clean break. When you ban those flavours, and make people go back to using tobacco flavours, you may as well encourage them to smoke again.

Not that our nanny statists would really mind that, I suspect. An increase in smoking would be a great chance for a whole new array of legislation.

This nonsense should be opposed. Universally.

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