Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Sunday, October 20, 2019

Evidence grows against e-cigarettes

I’m not sure exactly when I first encountered vaping. I was leading an editing workshop. I explained the house rules, which included “No Smoking.” One participant pulled out an e-cigarette. “Is this okay?” he asked.

            He said he was trying to quit smoking.

            After some discussion, the group let him vape. We were wrong.

            It took 500 years for western civilization to recognize the risks of tobacco smoking. The hazards of vaping have  become all too evident in one decade.

            The U.S. has identified 26 vaping-related deaths, and more than 1,300 illnesses. Canada, so far, has had no deaths, but several confirmed illnesses.

            In announcing B.C.’s first confirmed case, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stressed that a vaping-related diagnosis is reached -- to quote a CBC report -- only after “eliminating all other illnesses … and whose X-rays show pulmonary infiltrates, substances like pus or blood lingering in the lung tissue.”

            She called it “a diagnosis of exclusion.”

            Put another way, when a group of seriously sick people all show common symptoms, but no other common causes, the most likely cause has to be the common factor -- vaping.

            Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, and chest pain. Hospital treatment enables some to recover. Some die. Some suffer ill effects for months.


Intentions, good or ill

            I can accept that the Spanish explorers who brought tobacco from America to Europe had no idea of its harmful effects. They had no ill intentions. Smoking was simply a novelty.

            I cannot accept that their successors, the tobacco companies who aggressively marketed cigarettes through the 20thcentury, did not know that their product caused harm. The medical evidence was overwhelming. Smoking made almost every ailment worse, from cancer to heart disease.

            It also affected brain development in children and teens, making it harder for them to learn and concentrate, and to control their moods and impulses in later life.

            The tobacco companies knew exactly what they were doing. And did it anyway.

            Similarly, I can accept that Karl Benz had no ill intentions when he created the first automobile. That early oil companies genuinely thought they were serving society by providing petroleum lubricants and fuels. That Monsanto thought it was helping farmers around the world by inventing a killer-of-everything herbicide -- even if Roundup later proved carcinogenic. And that Purdue Pharma thought it was doing a good thing by introducing OxyContin for pain relief -- even if it led to the current opioid crises.

            I can almost accept that the original makers of e-cigarettes may really have thought they were helping smokers quit their nicotine addiction.

            As Michael Blaha of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center has pointed out, tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic: “There’s almost no doubt that they [e-cigarettes] expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes.”


Deliberate strategy

            But I simply cannot accept that Juul, the world’s biggest maker of vaping products, had good intentions when it put three times as much nicotine into its U.S. vapes than into its European brands.

            And then added fancy fruit flavours to encourage young people to take up vaping.

            Juul’s strategy is clear -- and ruthless. It intends to enlarge its market by fostering addiction to nicotine, a proven noxious substance. It has no good intentions. None.

            It doesn’t surprise me that Juul is owned by Pax Labs, which is owned by Altria, the parent company of Marlboro, which sells more cigarettes than the next seven brands combined.

            Two B.C. residents have filed a class action against Juul, for targeting minors with misleading advertising that its products were safer and healthier than smoking.

            Good luck to them.

            It took 20 years for similar claims (against Imperial Tobacco, JTI-Macdonald, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges) to grind through the Quebec Supreme Court to a $15 billion settlement.

            About 30 U.S. states and Canadian provinces have filed suits against pharmaceutical companies for triggering the opioid crisis. Purdue, maker of OxyContin, responded by declaring bankruptcy.


Held accountable

            I contend that companies should be, and must be, held accountable for the damages they cause. Just as the government of Canada had to compensate victims for its ill-conceived program of residential schools. Just as Monsanto was hit with a billion-dollar judgement against the carcinogenic effects of RoundUp. Just as individuals are held responsible for their actions in criminal law.

            A federal law specifically stating that corporations and companies will be held liable for the long-term consequences of their actions would go a long way towards introducing more caution.


Copyright © 2019 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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First, the favourable letters about last week’s column on what various political perspectives are against.


 “You hit the nail on the head -- again,” David Gilchrist wrote. “I too have felt that some of Trudeau’s leanings seemed pretty ‘Conservative’; and some of Scheer’s rhetoric (if you can take it at face value) sounds pretty ‘Liberal’. Maybe that’s a good thing as it reminds us that life is not black and white, and that each leader will get some things right and some things wrong. How much of each, is determined by that person’s personal conviction.

            “But what each is against seems to me to be mostly EACH OTHER. Just ONCE, I’d love to hear the leader of a party congratulate the leader of another party for making a right decision; but they seem to believe that if another party says something, it has to be wrong -- even if the critic was personally leaning that way before hearing the opposition support that idea.

            When I hear a leader tell me what another leader is thinking, intending, etc., I want to scream at the guy: “Don’t you tell me what’s in someone else’s mind. What makes you think I’m going to accept YOUR prejudiced judgement as more valid than my own observation and interpretation?”


Bob Rollwagen wrote, “I look at Party labels like I read traffic signs, but I have noticed that an increasing number are not reading the signs -- or, as you have indicated, like Humpty Dumpty they put their own meanings to the message.

            “I see party labels as indicators for what the general direction of the group’s focus will be and who on average they will favour in policy decisions. While we can debate if this should be done once every 4 to 5 years or for every decision, it is always good to see where the nation stands.

            “When voters are swayed by isolated issues, you get what Ontario has now. Social programs are declining as the government reduces taxes, teachers, medical services in favour of moving the richer members of our society ahead. The electorate lost sight of what that party’s underlying principles are, the ones they are governing by, rather than the random issues they used during the election.

            “It seems that all the parties try to hide their philosophies because they don’t want to publish their true desires. It seems Even the media have stopped covering what history tells us about political trends. The general meaning of the Party names will appear again the day after the election.”


Isabel Gibson let G.K. Chesterton reply for her: “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types -- the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.”


Some readers disliked that column. Bruce Hartwick wrote, “As you may have expected, your Sharp Edges column on political labels was somewhat offensive to small-c conservatives such as myself and my brother, and several million other Canadians across the country. I can normally accommodate your left-wing bias since it can be amusing if taken with a grain of salt, but your political labels column was over the boundary of rationality even for you.”


Steve Roney agreed “that our current political labels are misleading. But not on the basis that you say. The fundamental problem is that we have, over the past decades, come to call liberalism conservatism and conservatism liberalism.

            Steve then goes on to argue that “’Conservatism’ automatically means ‘conservation.’ Conservatives in the true sense have always been the political group that cared about preserving the natural environment. It is an intrinsic part of the conservative philosophy to conserve nature.

            “Liberals would generally leave such things to market forces and non-government initiatives -- on the philosophy that people come first.”

            You’ll note that Steve’s definitions -- whether or not they’re historically accurate -- are exactly opposite to my summation of the current political situation.

            He applied his own definitions: “As you can surely see by now, the current Canadian Conservative party is liberal, and the Canadian Liberal Party is conservative. This change has largely happened over my lifetime and yours; although the first and critical shift probably came with the New Deal in the US.”


Clare Neufeld decided to try out Eduard Hiebert’s recommendation, in last Sunday’s letters, on a “vote123” site and found it had some technical glitches. I wonder if anyone else tried it?






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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think some of these  links are spam.)

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” is an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca. He set up my webpage, and he doesn’t charge enough.

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also runs beautiful pictures. Her Thanksgiving presentation on the old hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, Is, well, beautiful -- https://www.traditionaliconoclast.com/2019/10/13/for/

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)



                       The late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures now have an archive (don’t ask how this happened) on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. Feel free to browse all 550 columns.





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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: vaping, e-cigarettes, Juul, smoking



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