Most teens don’t know they’re inhaling nicotine while vaping. (Black Press Media file photo)

Rickter Scale: Lost in a fog

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

Big tobacco has found its saviour, and the road to fattening future profit lines is no longer shrouded in smoke, but cloaked in vapour.

Only the lobbyists for an industry that has killed millions of people around the world could push a new poison with this kind of pitch. “Hey, science may eventually prove that e-cigarettes are harmful, but they’re not as bad for you as smoking.”

If you’re going to push a novel approach to smoking, it’s pure genius to come up with a concept where the contaminated cloud you’re inhaling disappears in the time it takes to exhale. And there’s no harm, no foul to those nasty complaints from bystanders if the evidence disappears in the blink of an eye, right?

If this creates a whole new audience of smokers, err, vapers who get hooked in their teens or younger, so what? The tobacco conglomerates could care less as long as the money piles up. As long as governments – those people we elect to protect us – look the other way (wink, wink), let the good times roll. You can bet the nicotine industry is already stockpiling freighters full of cash from their new cash cow to cover the cost of lawsuits sure to follow. Just a slice of the price of doing business, simply consumer collateral damage until the powers that we plug into the mounting medical evidence that e-cigarettes are actually very, very bad for you.

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What makes that so hard to digest is that we’ve all seen this movie before. Doing nothing as another health crisis unfolds while we’re still burying loved ones lost to lung cancer reads like another classic case of self-inflicted wounds.

In the meantime, my own unscientific survey based on the limited powers of my own observations indicates that the number of teens who vape is exploding. It’s attracting a peach-fuzzed pubescent clientele with the tried and true method of waving candy in front of a baby. Science and common sense says the brain doesn’t fully mature until you hit the mid-20s, so pitching something as addictive as nicotine through an assortment of flavours you would find in a Slurpee machine should scare the hell out of all of us.

Before we drown in that helpless feeling of here we go again because there’s nothing we can do, think about what we can accomplish with one stroke of the parliamentary pen. As it stands now, they only need a business license to sell tobacco or vaping products. Charging a hefty fee seems like a pretty good place to start. Stop the sale of flavoured products and put in place strict controls and fines for those who peddle these products.

San Francisco banned the sale of e-cigarettes in June, and New York State just passed a law banning flavoured nicotine products. It’s time to pressure our politicians into following the same path as our neighbours to the south because children are dying while we discuss and delay.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.

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