THE WAY THINGS ARE-I’m not saying I’d be dead by now, or that e-cigarettes saved my life or anything. Not exactly. But those e-cigs do have something to do with how I kicked the habit and don’t need tubes in my nose.
The number of times I beat the habit over more than 50 years of chain smoking are too numerous to recall exactly. Let’s just say it never held – not drugs, patches, self-control, not even poverty – stopped me from lighting up again and again and feeling like a man, a Marlboro Man.
It came as no surprise when a few years back when the doc told me what I’d done to my lungs. What was surprising was I didn’t have lung cancer, just emphysema, that left me with short of breath but I wouldn’t have to walk around with a can of oxygen – not yet.
It wasn’t like I was going to die just like that but I did have to quit smoking. You’d think it would be easy especially if you never got the habit, didn’t have a predilection to get addicted to the things you love too much like Mallomar cookies, booze or anything else that leads to repetitious behavior and makes us creatures of habit as surely as Pavlov’s dogs and B.F. Skinner’s pigeons, even when the reward is no longer there.
So I bought nicotine gum and patches and went from two packs of reds to one pack of lights. And then my local cheap smokes shop guy told me about E-cigarettes, $10 a pop, lots of hits.
The taste was disgusting but even one puff took the craving away, briefly. Then, I found them for $6 on EBay and stocked up for the long haul. I still got one, nondescript, black with a red paper mouthpiece in my car and one by my computer. But I haven’t touched them or tobacco in a couple of years and when I notice them, they remind me of nothing. That’s because they took all the joy out of smoking.
Tapping the filter twice to pack it down. Finding fire and lighting up. The first beautiful drag deep down in the lungs. The exhale of smoke. As far as I’m concerned if you don’t love smoking a cigarette, if you never loved smoking a cigarette, you couldn’t possibly love life. Even the memory of it is enough sometimes.
E-cigarettes robbed smoking of all that made it wonderful. It didn’t take long for me to quit. I’m only tempted to take a puff from time to time when I see someone who knows how to do it in a way that makes it so romantic. But I’d kicked the habit and can’t go back.
The only reason I’m telling this story is that it puts the lie to the bizarre action taken Tuesday by the 15 hollow souls who sit as the Los Angeles City Council.
These robotic cogs in a failed political machine agreed unanimously – how else? -- to ban e-cigarettes as if they were real cigarettes, as if one puff of nicotine-laced vapor every once in a while is the medical and moral equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes, as if the second-hand fumes are as dangerous as the exhaust from a diesel truck.
This is the government of the city of Los Angeles, which is a bit like saying it’s a lot like Putin and the oligarchs, they can do whatever they want whenever they want to because we won’t do anything about it.
Think about it, the e-cigarette ban is the trivial symbol of City Hall’s contempt for common sense – not the DWP or the LAFD or the LABS or Planning or all the other bungling incompetence of a government that can’t figure out who should pay to repair the crumbling streets and sidewalks but has no trouble giving billionaires from near and far tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to create minimum wage jobs.
It’s crazy. The fact that e-cigarettes have now become vogue with blueberry and other fruit flavors is unsettling but an occasional puff is not the public health risk of a lot of things, like drinking water out of the tap with dozens of synthesized chemicals of unknown and unstudied health impacts.
For some people, e-cigarettes are the way out of a destructive habit. For others, it is less harmful than actually lighting up.
The larger point is that this is how your city government works, or more precisely why it doesn’t work for your benefit.
Listen to Mitch O’Farrell, surely the embodiment of the failure of city leadership, lie and dissemble to Larry Mantle on KPCC as he tries to defend the council’s action in the face of challenge by UCLA Professor Mark Kleiman. Even the normally placid AirTalk host was astonished.
The simple truth is no one who uses e-cigarettes as a crutch to quit or reduce their tobacco intake gives a damn about what the councilmembers’s action. And nobody should care about anything else they do unless you are going to get serious about replacing them with people who put the public back into public service.
(Ron Kaye is a lifetime journalist, writer and political observer. He is the former editor of the Daily News and the founder of the Saving LA Project. He writes occasionally for CityWatch and can be reached at [email protected])
Vol 12 Issue 20
Pub: Mar 7, 2014