In a December 7 broadcast, aggressively conservative Rush Limbaugh spoke on his experience with electronic cigarettes and the new wave of advertising pushing them in front of the American public. Despite bans on TV ads for cigarettes since 1971, e-cigs advertisements are making their way on to the airways. Because they don’t contain tobacco, electronic cigarettes are not subject to the same bans as conventional cigarettes.
You can read the transcript here.
Limbaugh gives a basic overview of the opportunity electronic cigarettes provide: nicotine delivery without significant health risks at a lower cost than conventional cigarettes. Okay, so he says the price is mostly equivalent and maybe cheaper in some states, but we can’t expect him to get everything right. The main point he makes is that nicotine by itself is not a carcinogen and shouldn’t be viewed as this nasty, destructive toxin by itself. Prolonged use of nicotine by itself does little more than raise blood pressure (and actually has some health benefits)–which is hardly as concerning as the lung, throat, and mouth cancer, COPD, and death that long-term smoking can cause.
Republicans have long supported loose restraints on tobacco products–placing both the freedom and the responsibility of use in the hands of consumers. Democrats, meanwhile, often place responsibility in the hands of regulation to prevent companies from “tricking” consumers into becoming addicted to their products. This has led electronic cigarettes to become a somewhat partisan dispute, republicans for and democrats against (when reduced harm is normally in the reverse position).
Apparently Limbaugh is an electronic cigarette user himself. According to Limbaugh, 2 years ago he was in a bar using an e-cig. The manager asked him not to smoke. To which Limbaugh replied, “Oh, it’s not a cigarette.” A brief conversation followed about what it was and the manager decided the device was fine.
Shortly after, the manager returned to say that a woman had complained. Limbaugh quite unapologetically stated that it wasn’t against the law and, being in a bar, concerns of decency and “the children” were a bit ridiculous (though not in those precise words).
Limbaugh follows up with three points–each of which could merit some discussion on their own. He first argues that the demonization of electronic cigarettes is often done by individuals that are more or less pro-marijuana. It’s hard not to make a hippy reference here, so I just will. Weed is like natural, joints don’t have additives, I don’t support the man, man. In order, nicotine is a naturally occurring substance that exists in potatoes, eggplants, tobacco leaves and more. Many individuals still fail to realize that smoking (inhaling combusted material) is associated with 98% of tobacco-related health issues. Most e-cig companies are “small businesses” and it’s only been in the last year that Big Tobacco started buying into the industry.
Second, Limbaugh uses the example of a parent complaining about a church showing Charlie Brown. His argument is that if a church wants to show Charlie Brown, it should be allowed and someone that doesn’t like it just shouldn’t see it. This isn’t the best example, because the issue he’s referring to involved Little Rock, Arkansas public school kids taking a field trip to see a production of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown.” Nevertheless, the point he ultimately makes is that electronic cigarettes shouldn’t be held back by a few “namby-pamby” individuals that don’t like the look of them.
Finally, Limbaugh connects the rise of obesity to the decline of smoking rates in the US. His argument is that because nicotine is proven to assist weight-loss, the decline in smoking must be connected–in part–to the obesity epidemic. There is nothing we can add to this comment that would come from a position of intelligence or accuracy. This is not a theory that has been investigated… at all.