Vaping devices aren’t harmless; ban them

Dennis DalmanColumn, Opinion, Print Editions, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

These disgusting e-cigarettes remind me of the “candy cigarettes” we kids bought at Hackert’s Grocery Store some years before we turned on to the real thing – tobacco cigarettes.

I sometimes wonder if those candy cigarettes were a “gateway” device that led me later to the real ones.

The candy smokes looked like thin chalk sticks with red tips that were supposed to mimic the ash flare of a real cigarette. After pretending to smoke them, we would chew them up. They tasted like wintergreen.

It wasn’t long before we kids and our friends began filching real cigarettes at home and smoking them on the sly in our garage clubhouse. Sad to say, I was hooked on smokes when I was 12. My older brother, too. He was 14. We thought we were so cool, puffing away in the house when the parents were gone, listening to our 45 rpm records while smoking our fool heads off. Dumb!

The smartest thing I ever did was to quit smoking, cold turkey, 10 years ago. The dumbest thing I ever did? Started smoking. My lungs are still damaged. I often gasp and wheeze like an old emphysema victim. I’ve often said, if I – a chain-smoking nicotine fiend for years – could quit smoking, anybody can. The first three days after quitting were rough: kicking furniture, panic attacks, cursing, howling at the moon. But, I repeat, anybody can quit. Just make up your mind, get stubborn and then do it! If you fail, do it again!

These insidious vaping devices (oh, they look so innocent, so benign) are supposed to help people quit smoking, and they are marketed as a safe alternative to tobacco. They are not. They deliver nicotine to the bloodstream, and nicotine is addictive.

It is so discouraging to hear these vaping devices are a hit with young people. According to one report, almost 40 percent of high-school seniors had tried vaping, and about 21 percent said they vape quite often.

The hip name for vaping is Juuling, which derives from a popular brand of e-cigarettes, Juul.

I’d bet a lot of these Juulers will graduate to smoking real cigarettes by and by. What’s most disgusting is that e-cigs are marketed with children in mind. The vapes have candy-like flavors – cherry, melon, vanilla.

Sales by the Juul company increased by nearly 650 percent from 2016 to 2017, and vaping among teens is now a virtual epidemic. The vapor they inhale from the e-cigarettes contains nicotine and who knows how many  damaging toxins? The research so far is far from conclusive as to just how safe they are. On the contrary, some respected research now shows that e-cigs deliver carcinogens into the body.

According to Juul, each vapor pod for an e-cigarette delivers nicotine that is the equivalent of one pack of cigarettes – about 200 puffs. Safe? Not by a long shot.

Many parents don’t know their children are vaping. E-cigs don’t produce the pungent odors of tobacco cigarettes, and the devices themselves resemble those small, thumb-sized flash drives for computers.

According to a magazine article I read recently, when confronted by her mother about Juuling, an 18-year-old girl said the activity is “fun and pretty.” She said she and her friends love to sit around and blow smoke rings with the vapor. We kids and our friends indulged in the same dopey ritual: seeing who could produce the neatest smoke rings, which we did by making a tight O with our lips and then tapping the side of our cheeks with forefinger. Dumb!

There should be stringent, enforceable restrictions placed on vaping devices. Current age and access restrictions are obviously not working because so many young people are indulging in the habit.

Vaping devices and their pods should be subject to the same restrictions required to purchase tobacco products and alcohol. Better yet, their use should be strictly limited, via prescription, for those who smoke real cigarettes and hope to wean themselves off of killer cigs. Or even better yet: Ban the dumb things.

Author: Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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