It might shock some, then again it might not, that I’m on the Consolidated Board of Health for the county, and the Board of County Commissioners, and yet will almost assuredly vote against the pending resolution that’s about to come before the board of commissioners on prohibiting smoking and tobacco on county grounds. I wanted to take a minute and explain my position in advance rather than tie up the board’s time on the night of the upcoming meeting.

When this was first proposed, I believe it had a title that was more “Anti Tobacco” and I pretty much shrugged and thought to myself well, duh, sure, I’ll vote for that. The more I heard, the more I became concerned about what I feel is an attack on electronic cigarettes fueled primarily by ignorance and believe in Powerpoint.

Since its first iteration, the resolution has been clarified a little more. It currently reads as “AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING SMOKING INCLUDING E-CIGARETTES AND THE USE OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS IN STANLY COUNTY BUILDINGS, VEHICLES, AND ON STANLY COUNTY GROUNDS

Full disclosure- I’m a mostly-reformed smoker of over 20 years. I say mostly reformed because after quitting smoking after all those years, I actually developed an allergy to smoking. Having said that, if you light one up, I’ll be standing RIGHT BESIDE you trying to inhale every puff of it! I can smell it, and breathe it just fine. I just can’t smoke anymore even if I wanted to. I’m literally sitting here beside my last two cuban cigars (umm, I mean dominicans) sitting there wrapped in a nice bag that someone brought me; and I can’t even enjoy them. After 5 minutes I get nauseous and have to put them out. *insert tears of pain here*

Anyway, let me get to the point. I’l discuss this in two sections. Tobacco use first. Then E-cigarettes.

Traditional Tobacco (Smoking)

I’m totally for an all out ban on smoking or using tobacco in county vehicles. That’s fine. There might be other people that drive that vehicle and no one, even smokers, like the smell of stale tobacco smoke in a vehicle. It devalues the vehicle and I can totally get behind that one. Fine. Let’s do that.

Inside county buildings? I figured it was pretty much already illegal to smoke inside any public building anymore anyway. Isn’t this already covered under a state statute or something? But regardless, sure, no smoking inside county buildings. I can get behind that one too. No problem.

No smoking on county grounds?

This is the one I have an issue with. We already have signs saying you can’t smoke within x feet of an entrance. I think it’s currently 50 feet. Make it 100. I’m OK with that and I’d support that. There are those out there in the population that don’t want to be near cigarette smoke and that’s their right. But there is also no law against smoking and a lot of people still smoke.

I sit in on the meetings and when they say “County Grounds” the single most common building they mean is the county commons at 1st street. That’s basically the building in question when someone mentions county grounds. They just don’t say it out loud too often.

I pulled it up on Google maps and that parking lot is basically 200-250 wide from the building on all sides. I see absolutely zero reason when someone on their lunch break, or someone sitting in the far side of the parking lot, over 200 feet away from the building needs to feel like a second-class citizen if they want to smoke a cigarette. You might not like smoking. I don’t even really like it anymore, but it’s not something an legal-age adult isn’t allowed to do and until it is I don’t think we should treat the parking lot like a prison yard. Actually, I take that back.. you can smoke in prison yards…

I’m sure some are going to pipe up that the disgusting smell of tobacco makes them nauseous from 200 feet away. Well, I’d suggest you just stay inside from now on. I don’t know what to tell you. If you stand there for 5 minutes in that parking lot throwing angry glares across the distance at whomever might be smoking a cigarette, you’re going to inhale more benzene, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other chemicals from the car exhaust driving right past you than you’d get if you were 50 feet from the poor sot you tried to banish off the property line.

I mean seriously, if we want to drum up statistics for every argument you should/shouldn’t breathe, check out the findings from the EPA and ALAPCO and Harvard Medical school about the carcinogenic effects of diesel cars and truck exhaust. You’d rather stand there in a parking lot with 20-50 running engines at any moment glaring at two smokers a hundred feet away than realize what else you’re inhaling at the moment? Come on…

While we’re at it, you know what the biggest argument for banning it on Stanly County grounds seems to be? It seems to be that since the hospital banned smoking on their grounds, all the doctors and nurses come to our parking lot to smoke and leave their butts on the ground.

Let that sink in a moment… the DOCTORS and NURSES come over to smoke because… they….. can’t…. ha ha.. at.. the… hospital!… I can’t even make it through that sentence without busting out into laughter.

Guess what? Littering is already a crime. Write ’em up! Put up a camera and write tickets to pad the county coffers all day long if you want. I’ll support the hell out of that idea, but I won’t support banning a responsible smoker who actually does try to respect other people by maintaining a reasonable distance from others who just wants to enjoy their 5 minutes of peace and a smoke.

E-Cigarettes

This is the one I have a problem with more so than ANYTHING else. I’ve sat through myriad presentations on the effects of electronic cigarettes. Most all of them were full of crap, pulled from slides that looked like they were generated back in 1996, and provided plenty of numbers but no sources for the research and showed no actual facts except to pick on one manufacturer (Juul) and treat that as if it were the entire industry.

November 13th, 2015, 1:30 in the afternoon.

That’s the day I put down my last Marlboro Light.

I smoked two to two and a half packs of cigarettes a day for almost twenty years and I was finally able to quit that day because of an e-cigarette. For the record, from now on I’m just going to call it a “vape” because that’s less hyphenated mess to type.

Most people know startlingly little about vaping, vapes, how they work, or much else about them. That includes most of the people I’ve seen deliver reports on the matter. What gripes me more is that they have no idea how ignorant it sounds to someone that actually vapes. It’s too much BS to even argue with because they just won’t get it.

Let me be clear on one issue about the resolution before I get off on a tangent. The big picture the resolution they want us to vote on is that vaping has become almost a pandemic with children and the youth and that as responsible adults, we should lead by example and therefore we can’t vape because then kids will think it’s OK to vape.

Let me see if I can figure this math out. As of December 2018, 37.3% of high school seniors vaped, as compared to 27.8% the previous year. (Source) 10.9% of eight graders vaped. The CDC found a 78% increase in teens in just a year. (source)

That’s a lot. I agree. But if you’re going to try to say that telling me I can’t vape on county property and that this resolution is going to magically prevent me from negatively influencing a teenager by accident, I’d say you’re out of your mind.

In order for that to be possible on a national level, we’d have to have something like 90% of the adult population just vaping like crazy to have that kind of effect. Most of the kids that vape I would imagine don’t even have parents that smoke. If you want to blame their friends, that’s fine, but don’t penalize adults that DO use it as stop-smoking aid under the auspices that you’re going to do ANYTHING whatsoever to curb vaping in our youth. That’s a token effort to make someone feel good while just annoying responsible adults and producing zero net effect for the positive. It’s legislation for feeling better about yourself.

Let me remind you of something. You listening? Pay close attention to this part.

IT IS ILLEGAL TO BUY VAPE PRODUCTS UNDER 18 YEARS OLD.

IT IS A CRIME

IT IS AGAINST THE LAW

So, if you happen to see my 15-year old out vaping, feel free to whip his ass and call the cops to find out where he got it from.

That’s a parent problem.

It’s not a government problem.

If you know a store sold vape supplies to a minor, call the cops and shut it down. If you know of a website that sold them to a minor, call the cops and shut ’em down. They deserve it. You’ll get no argument from me and I’ll help you do it any way I know how. NC is already suing JUUL for their marking towards teens, and I think that’s great.

But if someone’s kid somehow manages to get a credit card, buy supplies online, and mom/dad doesn’t know? That’s a financial problem for their household – not one you need to bother me with as a reformed-smoker.

If they’re buying it in a store, then how are they getting to the store? Who’s taking them? Whose money are they using to get it? I mean this stuff ain’t cheap! How do adults NOT seem to know what’s going on with their kids that this is such a pandemic? And how in God’s name is saying you can’t vape OUTSIDE in a parking lot or ball field doing anything to combat it? It doesn’t.

Back to the topic of ignorance:

So, let’s revisit the “vaping is bad because” conversation. It blows my mind that of every person I’ve asked that tells me how bad it is, not one of them can answer the question “Really? What’s in it?”

“Well, it’s full of chemicals, and nicotine, and other cancer stuff” is usually the answer.

No. It’s actually not.

I know what’s in it because it’s sitting on my counter where I make it. Most 21 year-olds in vape shops could rattle off the ingredients list of almost any of a hundred “flavors” yet not one medical person I know has any clue. They just read vague crap on the internet and put the words “The Surgeon General says” in front of the statement. You know what the surgeon general says about vaping for actual adults? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. You know what the ENTIRE medical community worldwide has said about vaping? It boils down to “It might prove to be bad, but we can’t prove that, but it’s 95% better for you than smoking or tobacco.” That’s all that’s been said.

Let’s get all clinical here for a moment. What is in vape juice?

Vegetable Glycerin

Well it all has some base comprised of vegetable glycerin, often called VG. If you wear make up, you have it on your face. If you wear lotion, you have it on your hands. It’s a sugary glycerin made from either soybean, coconut, or palm oils. The one shown above (big bottle on the right) is made from palm oils. If you eat sugar free foods or low carb diet food, chances are you ingest a lot of it. It’s a polyol carbohydrate that tastes sweet but doesn’t cause a rise in blood sugar. Suffice it to say, the average person already probably ingests more VG in a day through foods and cosmetics than I would vaping.

Here’s the analysis from the batch I ordered. Yeah, this is all medical grade materials provided by medical grade labs and sold to distributors.

Chemical Analysis of my bottle of Vegetable Glycerin

Propylene Glycol

This is the second main component of vape mixes. It’s what provides the “throaty” feeling smokers miss from their smoking days. Like the first ingredient mentioned above, it’s already in a TON of things you use and consume all day. You can even read the fact sheet from the CDC on it here.

If you drink soft drinks, or eat frozen meals, or use artificial sweeteners, or spices, any kind of salad dressing or meat marinade, have ever eaten cake or frosting, ever colored food, or ever baked basically anything… you’re taking in more PG than I do in an average day vaping. It’s in a TON of things we consume daily, and it’s harmless.

Nicotine (Optional)

Nicotine is the optional component in many vape juices and it’s the one that makes quitting smoking cigarettes possible for many like me. If you never vaped, you probably have no idea what your nicotine intake is even if you smoke. I smoked Marlboro Lights for two decades. That’s about the equivalent of an 18mg strength in vape juices. A Marlboro Red would be similar to 24mg juice.

When you’re buying juice from a retailer, you can purchase basically whatever level of nicotine you want in that particular flavor. I started out with 12mg juices. After about a week, I bought 6mg instead. That made me want to start punching babies and burning puppies alive, so I quickly bought a bottle of 12 and mixed them to make a 9mg mix. I stayed on that for about two weeks, then went down to 6. Later I went down to 3mg.

Today, as I like to commonly tell people: “I’m basically a grown-ass man with a pacifier.” I’m on almost zero nicotine now. I have that bottle shown above because if I buy a store-bought juice now I just purchase it with zero nicotine and add a tiny bit of my own.

Flavorings

The ingredient that makes vaping so interesting is the flavoring you add to it. I tried for a LONG time to simply find a vape juice that tastes like “Marlboro Light” because that’s what I liked. It didn’t take me long to realize that’s not possible. The actual tobacco flavors taste horrible to me. It wasn’t until I tried a real cigarette one time later just to see what they tasted like now, that the flavors actually DO taste like real cigarettes. It’s just that my taste buds have returned to normal and now I realize cigarettes taste horrible! lol.

But to make the process enjoyable, people want some sort of flavor they’re comfortable with. Mine is… surprise… coffee! In fact it’s called “Tommy’s Coffee #2.” Why, you ask? Well because Tommy’s Coffee #1 tasted like crap and I tried a new recipe.

Coming full circle

I told you all of that to reinforce that most people have zero idea what’s in vape juice unless they vape. I don’t know what’s in most beer, because they all taste like cold pee to me because I don’t like beer. It’s the same thing with vape juices. My coffee juice contains coffee extract, vanilla, and caramel… the same things that make up the flavorings in the extracts in your cabinets at home, except those extracts are mixed with alcohol. Do NOT try to vape vanilla extract thinking it’s the same thing as vanilla flavoring… #notthatiknowfromexperience

So yeah, it kind of gets under my skin when we want to try to pass a resolution to ban vaping when for actual adults, it really IS a great way to quit smoking. I quit from vaping. Beard quit. Barry has almost quit. Chris has almost quit. Travis quit. That’s five of us in just my small circle of friends that have either totally or almost given up smoking cigarettes thanks to the ability to vape instead. That’s not five out of a hundred friends. That’s five out of six! (Mary won’t give up those Virginia Slims yet, but I’m working on her).

Now, if you want to stop kids from vaping, I’m totally for it. But I can’t see where there is an influx of 12 year-olds wanting to hang out anywhere near government buildings ANY TIME IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES! EVER! Taking away what is literally almost a totally harmless alternative from adults, is just… rude.

I asked the Consolidated Board of Health at our last meeting to consider removing the electronic cigarettes from the resolution with the promise that I’d wholeheartedly support it. Overall, they thought the resolution better with electronic cigarettes included. I can’t blame them. It’s their opinion and they are entitled to it and I won’t bash them for having it. At the end of the day, I’m only going to be one vote and I’m not sure my vote will count for much, but outright banning the best smoking-cessation tool I’ve ever seen from even being used outside on the property seems an overreach to me and because of that I won’t be voting for it and personally I hope about 500 adults that vape show up to say the same thing.

Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below!

5 Comments

  • Posted July 23, 2019

    Bill Sorenson

    I certainly understand your position on the actual law being proposed, however I am not sold on the Vaping is safe dissertation you provided. Regardless of that, I think your posit on the law is proper. We do have people that smoke and vape working in county spaces. The smokers are gonna smoke and the vapers are gonna vape. Do we want to make it necessary for them to drive away to do so during their breaks? Finally, I am a huge anti smoking and anti vaping guy but somewhere in our decision making we have to respect the individual liberties of others.

    I appreciate the fine job you are doing on our commission.

    • Posted July 23, 2019

      RAndy Mauldin

      I beleive you have presented a great case for your vote and I agree with you’

  • Posted July 24, 2019

    David cody

    What about the county workers that use chewing tobacco how will they be affected?

    • Posted July 24, 2019

      T.Jordan

      According to the resolution, that too will be banned. That makes no sense to me. Chewing tobacco literally affects no one else with the possible argument about litter being relevant, but as far as health concerns, it affects no one but the user.

  • Posted July 24, 2019

    Jack Fesperman

    As usual you always explain your stance on things and make it where anyone can understand, and for that I thank you. I have to agree with what you are saying. The only thing that you said that may not be right is I think NC prisons are now tobacco free. I also wish they would start writing tickets for littering on the butts.

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