Weekends during my childhood often involved watching old Abbott and Costello films on one of the local television channels. One bit had Costello find Abbott and some other men playing craps. Costello naively asked what they were doing, and Abbott, thinking Lou was a mullet, introduced him to the game. As Lou started winning, he occasionally uttered some dice slang, tipping Bud off that he wasn’t quite the newbie.

One phrase, “Little Joe,” stuck in my head, because I didn’t catch on to what it meant. Decades later, as I wandered through a Vegas casino one morning, I asked one of the croupiers standing idly at an empty craps table what it meant. He informed me that Little Joe is a “hard 4,” i.e. 2 and 2 on the dice. Hard, in that it’s more difficult to get 4 that way than 1 and 3. The craps board has proposition bets for all “hard way” rolls (i.e. 2, 4, 6, 8).

As is the norm for that cluttered hoarder’s palace that is my brain pan, I flashed back to this “hard way” idea in reading about the various bans and restrictions being imposed on vaping, including a FDA decree that bans flavored cartridges.

A friend commented on the breathtaking speed with which vaping has been proclaimed “Public Health Hazard” and been smashed by the blunt hammer of the regulatory state. And she’s right. The spate of “vaper’s lung” that is one of the motivators for the government’s regulatory fist came into public awareness just this past summer. E-cigarettes have been widely available in the US for a dozen years, though, which should have been a major tip-off that there was something new and different going on.

That “vaper’s lung” turned out to be, as libertarian sources reported well before everyone else, caused by the use of black-market THC fluids (or, more specifically, the Vitamin E acetate used in those fluids). While the science is certainly young, there seems to be a reluctance to “admit” that it’s misuse that’s at the root of the health issues. I’d speculate this reluctance stems from a desire to regulate and restrict vaping, possibly to full prohibition. This desire is, again I’d speculate, born of a puritanical attitude towards smoking, i.e. they want smokers to quit, with no “third way” alternatives permitted.

Vaping is a “third way,” and an important one from a public health perspective. Yet, even as the science revealed that the health risk was not from the legal products, the health scolds continued to urge people away from vaping. As Reason reports, there’s strong evidence that vaping helps people get off tobacco. While vaping still delivers nicotine, it does not deliver the carcinogens and other stuff that results in hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, in the US alone. Yet, rather than encourage people who, despite the universal understanding that smoking is bad for them, and despite all sorts of other help-quit options, continue to smoke to try vaping as a less-bad alternative, the people who are at the fore of the “quit-smoking” movement are outraged that the option exists.

But, what of the children?

Yes, indeed, vaping by minors is a problem. It’s a problem the way that underage smoking is a problem – minors are, both by science and definition, not fully formed adults, and therefore societies correctly choose to restrict their liberty. The matter is – how to enforce this restriction? Limiting the rights of others hasn’t proved effective, but moreso it’s incompatible with a society committed to liberty. The proper answer is enforcement of the restrictions on sales to minors… and, parents doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

Some have argued that banning just the “flavored” vapes, or the subset of those sold as cartridges, isn’t that big an infringement, since it’s “for the children.” What will happen when that ban doesn’t work, and some kids continue to vape? Will ineffective restrictions be removed? Or, will we be told that further bans are necessary?

How have other prohibitions worked out in the past?

Way back in 2014 (it seems funny to write that), I blogged my speculation that opposition to vaping was about “eye pollution,” about people being bothered by witnessing the ritual of smoking, even if there was no actual tobacco smoke produced. I still think that’s part of it, but I also believe that a puritanical demand that people quit “the hard way” or not at all is part of this anti-vaping frenzy. I think it’s safe to generalize that most non-smokers look down upon smokers and smoking, and see vaping similarly. Smokers as a class have had their rights severely infringed for decades, with “second-hand smoke” as the justification for imposing government mandates and bans on private businesses and residences. That the science doesn’t actually affirm the widely-reported ill health effects of second-hand smoke is of no relevance – those who dislike smoking have won that war.

I hate smoking, with a passion. I’ve never smoked, never will, and usually remove myself from the vicinity of smokers. This has fostered my own prejudices about vaping, and I don’t care to be around it. And, mind you, I’m not endorsing vaping as a risk-free alternative to smoking. Safer, yes, but if you want to be safest, don’t inhale anything other than air. But, I’m not willing to use lies or bad science to impose my will on others.

This, sadly, makes me an exception in the realm of public policy. The anti-smoking harridans want smokers to quit, and they want them to quit the hard way. So, they’ve seized the opportunity that vaper’s lung offered to do what they do. As Rahm Emanuel infamously declared, “never let a crisis go to waste.” Even if it’s made up.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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