Which is the lesser of two evils: inhaling smoke or inhaling steam? Which sounds more ridiculous: a ban on smoke or a ban on steam? And yet in the bizarro world of liberalism run wild, Democrats will fight like hell to push for pot permissibility and engage in an equally pugnacious press to ban e-cigarettes indoors.
Let me put it more "bluntly" (pun duly intended): there is a pernicious hypocrisy involved when a method of nicotine consumption that is contentious but less dangerous than inhaling combustible materials is singled out for nanny-state regulation -- especially when populations that have been shown to disproportionately use tobacco products (the old-school "hey-buddy-got-a-light?" kind) stand to lose the most from such bans.
I'm part of that population of disproportionate use: a member of the LGBT community. A 2010 study by the American Lung Association revealed that gay, bisexual, and transgender men are up to 2.5 times more likely to smoke than their non-GBT counterparts. And for years, I was a statistic myself: I smoked for over a decade before giving it up, but I sure don't credit the government for my cessation.
Incidentally, that same ALA study stated, "Like other groups disproportionately affected by tobacco use including African Americans and Native Americans, the LGBT population needs targeted efforts to reduce smoking rates, which will ultimately save lives." Hear, hear. So why, then, when a healthier alternative to tobacco arises, does the left immediately move to thwart it? This isn't just an attack on freedom; it's an attack on health.
Meanwhile, the left is champing at the bit to remove all prohibition on marijuana, everywhere. Bolstered by victories for "recreational use" in Colorado and Washington, those hesitant about legalizing pot in the first place, encouraging a gradual approach by advocates to implementation of the new policy, have been met with hard-line opposition. According to a 2010 survey by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, use of marijuana in the previous 30 days by children between the ages of 12 and 17 in Denver was 12.2 percent (compare that to 6.6 percent for the country). And according to the National Institutes of Health, one in six children who start using marijuana becomes addicted. Should this give us reason to pause?
And e-cigarettes? "What about the children?!" A recent study -- released hot on the heels of the e-cig ban put in place by a lame-duck City Council in New York -- found that while more research needed to be done, any secondhand dangers of e-cigarette use were essentially nil beyond nicotine.
Apparently, when the jury is still out on an activity the left supports, like the smoking of wacky-tabaccy, the rule is to ask questions later; when the jury is still out on an activity the left opposes, like the "vaping" of zappy-tabaccy, the rule is to ban immediately and end debate now and forever.
To be clear, I'm not opposed to the idea of marijuana legalization, and the organization for which I serve as Executive Director takes no formal position on the matter. In fact, there are quite a number of libertarian-leaning members of Log Cabin Republicans who support legalizing pot for the same reasons that they support marriage equality: people have the right to engage in any activity and relationship they like as long as it does no direct harm to their fellow citizens -- and the government has no business meddling in their lives.
That's why the left's push against e-cigarettes is so wrong on so many levels, and so hypocritical on so many more, and so harmful on even more than that.
It's just one example -- one of many -- in which the Democratic nanny-state continues to micro-manage and macro-regulate the lives of Americans just trying to get by. E-cigarette regulation is just the latest example of a litany of freedoms gone up in smoke.
Gregory T. Angelo is the Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans.