Kevin Fisher in 2018

Kevin Fisher

Make no mistake, I think Juul is a sleazy company with a sleazy history when it comes to marketing nicotine to high school, and even middle school, students. But that’s another column.

This one is not about Juul’s irresponsible corporate behavior in pushing drug addiction on children, which it insidiously did for years before recently cleaning up its act in the face of growing public, medical and governmental pressure.

Nor is this column about the pros and cons of vaping, which boil down to this, based on current knowledge: (1) it’s better than smoking tobacco; (2) it’s creating millions of new drug addicts.

Yes, nicotine is a drug, and a wildly addictive one at that. If you start on it, you’ll have a hell of a time stopping. If you ever can.

That includes many young people who were not previously tobacco users. Seduced by peer pressure, they just think it’s cool to vape.

By the way, have you noticed that Juul’s ads refer to nicotine as “an addictive chemical” rather than “an addictive drug”? Cute. Clever. Corrupt. And the federal government should put a stop to it, requiring that nicotine be referred to as the drug it is in the pejorative sense.

But again, this is not a call to ban either Juul devices or vaping. The libertarian in me does not wish to stop anyone (anyone over 18 that is) from buying their shiny new nicotine delivery system and setting out to become a drug addict for life.

All while pretending they’re not smoking. Or becoming addicts. Or risking both known and unknown health consequences. Though of course they are, on all counts.

Nevertheless, people who wish to vape should have that right. Different people make different poor choices affecting their health, and if that’s yours, have at it.

Conversely, you should have no right whatsoever to spray that poison around on other people at work or in public places, regardless of what fruity flavor you’re puffing.

That’s why Columbia City Council must act now to add the necessary “no vaping” language to the city’s existing no smoking ordinance. 

Further, it must do so before Juul has its way with the Legislature, not a difficult thing for big companies with big bucks to do.

And Juul has set about doing it, with everything from a major South Carolina lobbying effort concerning possible regulations on the sale of their product, as recently reported by The New York Times, to dangling the possibility of building a manufacturing plant in Lexington County to produce their drug delivery devices right here in the Midlands.

To its credit, Juul has not attempted to involve the Legislature in an effort to prevent municipalities and counties from adding “no vaping” language to their no smoking laws. And as long as they don’t, I’m OK with their efforts to keep vaping legal and equitably regulated (with tobacco products) in this state.

But we must stay vigilant, as the plastic bag industry has in fact made such an effort to keep their litter-is-me industry beyond the reach of local regulation. When coastal towns including Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Folly Beach, Beaufort, Hilton Head and others passed bans on single use plastic bags, industry lobbyists descended on the State House to try to overturn those local bans.

While the House quickly fell in line, obliterated the principle of home rule yet again and then no doubt went to a nice plastic bag industry dinner where campaign contributions were offered, the Senate actually held the bill up, at least until 2020.

In the meantime, a court ruling said the local bans would stand unless and until the Legislature acts to override them. That means those municipalities and counties which have passed plastic bag bans can continue implementing them, which has generated more support, with more communities passing the ban (including Arcadia Lakes here in the Midlands) and lessens the likelihood of a reversal on the local bans by the Legislature.

And so it should be with Columbia’s no vaping addition to the city’s no smoking ordinance. Introduced by Councilman Howard Duvall, it deserves everyone’s support as it moves to critical second reading consideration this week.

This is a simple matter. Where there’s no smoking, there should be no vaping. And there’s no denying that logic.

Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics.

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