Selling e-cigarettes will become illegal in San Francisco in 2020. (From Pixabay)

Liberal San Francisco has voted to ban the sale of e-cigarettes next year until and unless the US Food and Drug Administration considers them safe.

If you are surprised that they were not already evaluated by the FDA, you’re not alone. According to some sources, the SF move is to prod the FDA to do just that.

They have not similarly outlawed traditional cigarettes (although Beverly Hills, California, has done so), and marijuana in its myriad forms (including vaping) is still permitted.

Why is this even a concern when there more dangerous drugs than nicotine out there talking lives on a daily basis? Well, actually, there aren’t if you go by deaths per day. True, you won’t die of an overdose of nicotine by smoking or vaping, but smoking-related deaths amount to 1,300 per day. Deaths due to drug overdoses were almost 200 per day, with 130 due to opioids. (Deaths due to marijuana overdose: None ever.)

So, if tobacco use is so deadly, why isn’t it outlawed? Why aren’t dealers in prison? Why aren’t nicotine addicts forced into rehab? Why was a new delivery system (e-cigarettes) allowed on the market without going through government testing?

Probably because the nicotine in tobacco doesn’t get you high in the same way as drugs or even alcohol can. Also, because vaping e-cigarettes does not burn cigarette papers and filters, they are less likely to cause cancer. Finally, probably because some (including former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb) hoped that vaping might be a safer way to wean people off of tobacco.

The backlash now is because vaping, at least among young people, is having the opposite effect. Teens who have never smoked are vaping, and some are going on to smoke, too. Some other drugs that have been vaped include cocaine, morphine, ketamine, and DMT

That is concerning, but is that reason enough to ban e-cigarettes?

Maybe not. So some anti-vapers have come up with another reason: there is a chemical in e-cigarette liquids that has been linked to serious health issues. Diacetyl, a flavoring in many e-cigarette liquids, may cause something called “popcorn lung”. It sounds horrible, and it is, but e-cigarettes have never been found to have caused a single case of it.

It isn’t called popcorn lung because it turns your lungs to popcorn. Diacetyl is a flavoring in microwave popcorn that caused “popcorn lung” in the workers at a microwave popcorn factory were exposed to great clouds of the stuff accidentally. The amount in e-cigarette liquids isn’t likely to cause similar effects.

Besides, you know what contains more diacetyl than e-cigarettes? Traditional cigarettes. In fact, they contain between 100 and 750 times as much diacetyl as e-cigarettes. No one has ever contracted popcorn lung from smoking either.

So why was popcorn lung even mentioned in conjunction with e-cigs? Two theories:

  1. People who oppose vaping are stupid. Maybe they were not aware of how much diacetyl was in tobacco cigarettes, they panicked and over-reacted. That’s the kinder theory. 
  2. The other is that they think you are stupid. They don’t think you would appreciate the real worries and prospective harms of e-cigarettes, so they made up one that sounds scarier than cancer.

They did the same thing with marijuana. They spent so much time, energy, and money preaching the horrid evils of cannabis (Reefer Madness!; Marihuana: Weed with Roots in Hell) that the people stopped believing there was anything wrong with marijuana. They refused to decriminalize marijuana or to allow the proper scientific study of it so that the people finally had enough and voted to legalize it without proper study, state by state.

Eleven states now have voted for legal recreational marijuana in addition to so called medical marijuana. Psilocybin mushrooms and other hallucinogenic drugs may also become legalized one state at a time. This may make drug rehab more difficult or more needed.

It would be better by far if these drugs could be tested and evaluated before they were put on the market, but after a century or so of lies and deliberate misinformation, nobody may be listening.