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“The Moral Panic Over E-Cigarettes Intensifies”


So nicotine addiction is bad because addiction is bad, and addiction is bad because, “don’t you know that addiction is bad?’, think of the children, I’ll explain it to you just as soon as I finish this cup of coffee – I just can’t do anything without a cup of coffee”

Americans have always struggled over the distinction between disapproving of a behavior because it’s bad for people and disapproving of a behavior because it makes people feel good. Unsurprisingly, then, the advent of e-cigarettes—devices that allow you to get the pleasure of smoking without taking the lung-cancer risks of actually inhaling tobacco tar—has inspired a new moral panic that looks a lot like the public health campaign against real cigarettes but might not be anything more than old-fashioned priggishness. Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to regulate the indoor smoking of e-cigarettes, or vaporizers, in basically the same way they regulate regular cigarettes. Wednesday, the New York Times ran a piece about fears over the e-cigarette with that perennial phrase of any respectable moral panic, “lure young,” right there in the headline.

Will Saletan took on the cultural anxieties over vaporizers in 2009:

Let’s be blunt about what’s going on here. We tolerated smoking until science proved it was harmful to nonsmokers. As momentum grew, the war on smoking became cultural, with disapproval and ostracism of anyone who lit up. Electronic cigarettes have removed the war’s scientific basis, but our cultural revulsion persists. Therefore, so does our prohibition and condemnation.

Both the Times article and the situation in LA appear to back up his concern that the social taboos around real cigarettes are being transferred to e-cigarettes for emotional, not scientific reasons.Slate

Read the full article on Slate


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