Just A Thought – Illegal, Immoral and Wrong

They are not synonyms; they describe different standards.

As I observe the community looking through the many kinds of smoking that exist, how we allow or don’t, the times and places where they happen, those three points come up over and over again. A legal ban on sales of flavored tobacco? Well, hang on, there might be exceptions. Retail cannabis? Yes, but first an ultra extreme vetting process on who and where. No smoking in bars?  Obvious. The locked cigarette cases at the supermarkets are a testament to the control our culture feels the need to exercise over smoking.

Sadly, that is waving a red flag in front of teenagers, for whom breaking rules is a sport. A highly competitive, very popular sport.

It is illegal for people to smoke before the age of 21. It is illegal for students to smoke at school. Vaping, is a problem at schools all over the country. It is clearly illegal; is it immoral?

The fear-turning-to-panic that is following on the heels of reports of people getting sick and dying from vaping does connect to immorality. The people who sell bootleg vapes are using ingredients that will make people sick. In an interview on the KCRW program “Press Play,” the part of downtown Los Angeles known as the Toy District is identified as a center for packaging counterfeit vapes, and the ingredients are explicitly identified. If someone is willing to make money off something that is known to be poison, that’s immoral.

What’s the answer? We have legal channels for people to buy clean, regulated products, but those channels are still choked.

Three years after California voters legalized the sale of recreational marijuana,The Los Angeles Times cited a poll showing  “68% say it has been a “good thing,” with a further gripe that there are so few retail locations available – they are talking state, not westside. But this allows the statewide black market to stay in place, and that is wrong.

So, if it’s illegal and immoral to sell bootleg vapes that make people sick, why do people still do that? If putting legal cannabis in the community is a good thing, and black market cannabis is a bad thing, what’s the hold up?

It’s taken decades for our culture to fully recognize that smoking tobacco is bad. What we know is that cigarettes are filled with chemicals, to prolong shelf life and stimulate addiction. While vaping isn’t evil (that’s a fourth category we just don’t have time for today – )  it is a similar situation to smoking tobacco; how the stuff is processed is a simple formula for what kind of health risk you are taking. People selling bootleg vapes are not even as scrupulous as the labs at Phillip Morris, and they have no corporate address.

The endgame is that teenagers know that they should not be vaping. But the same way that condoms can prevent multiple health issues, getting cannabis from a company that does have an address insures that you are not inhaling paint thinner with your puff.

Taking major risks over minor pleasures? It’s just wrong.


Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang

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