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Vaping, Ethics, Theology, and Moderation…

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Let’s take a look at a handful of incidents involving E-cigarettes and vaping that have taken place recently:  First, according to news sources, a child in Israel tragically passed from either drinking E-juice, or sucking it out of a cartomizer of some sort.  (The journalists who wrote the articles obviously didn’t know much about the variations in methods of E-juice delivery, so this part of the story is a little unclear.  Suffice it to say the child allegedly died of nicotine poisoning from E-juice).  Second, a Facebook friend of mine by the name of Rich, nearly died of a collapsed lung after smoking for more than half of his life.  He is now alive and healthy thanks to the miracle of E-cigarettes.  Third, statistically speaking; 96% of vapers report that they have either quit or drastically reduced their smoking habits through the use of E-cigs, 79% of vapers have said in surveys that they would almost certainly revert to (analog) cigarette smoking if E-cigarettes are banned or severely regulated beyond reason, about 69% of smokers want to/are trying to quit smoking.

So, with these three stories in mind, let’s discuss autonomy (in the medical sense of the word).  What we mean when we use the word autonomy in this sense is that each person has the inherent right to make their own decisions regarding their own lives, their health, their habits, and the risks they are willing to take insofar as their health is concerned.  This sounds like an argument firmly rooted, not only in the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, but also in the guidelines set forth by the majority of religious teachings.  This leads us to the other ethical principles generally accepted in the medical community which can be found under the label of beneficence, or the promotion of healthy remedies in others in such a way that serves the best interests of that particular person.

These two ethical principles taught by the medical community at large seem to fit very nicely into favoring the anti-regulation-of-E-cigarettes side of this debate.  How can you tell someone that they need to quit smoking, then tell them that they can’t choose the most effective method of smoking cessation invented to date?  Not only is it counter-intuitive, it actually violates the rights of a free man to decide his own direction regarding his own health.  It’s also malicious to deny someone the very thing that could save their life when nothing else works.  Malevolence is the antithesis of beneficence, so this denial of a life-saving device to a person who is dying of the deadly, extremely difficult-to-quit practice of tobacco smoking.  So, it would seem that these two principles, upon which the entire modern practice of the medical arts and sciences are based, necessarily require free access to E-cigarette/vaping technologies.  (I’m not even going to entertain the FDA’s ridiculous notion that there “haven’t been any studies proving E-cigarettes as an effective smoking cessation device” in this article).

Now, the story about the small child drinking E-juice and dying is horrifically tragic, but as far as I’ve been able to tell, this is the only reported instance of death by E-cigarette… but is that really the issue here?  Did this child die because she vaped herself to death, using an E-cigarette as a cigarette replacement?  Or did she die because a substance that should not have been left within her reach was, in fact, left within her reach and consumed by her… just as a bottle of bleach, drano, rat poison, etc. might be consumed by a child if left unprotected?  Is this a parenting accident, or a result of an evil product killing indiscriminately?  I have found a lot of stories, such as the aforementioned story about my Facebook Friend, Rich, which demonstrate the life-saving properties of this amazing and miraculous E-cigarette technology.  If you Google the terms “E-cigarettes saved my life” you’ll eventually get tired of reading the thousands of stories that pop up as results.  Quite literally MILLIONS of people have found valuable health assistance in the practice of vaping, and how wrong would it be to deny them this assistance?  Do we deny disaster-relief assistance just because one town’s mayor appropriated a portion of the relief funds to line his own pockets?  So we deny a diabetes-sufferer a syringe because someone has used the syringe to inject heroine into their veins?  Do we deny grocery store patrons the option of purchasing peanut butter because a small handful of people are deathly allergic to peanut butter?  There has to be a point where personal responsibility is expected of people… and if they refuse to accept that responsibility, the resulting damages can’t be blamed on anyone but themselves.  And as far as children go, obviously a child is held responsible for their actions, especially a toddler or baby.  But their parents can and should be held responsible for leaving poisonous substances unattended within reach of their children.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, let’s tackle vaping through the eyes of moral theology/philosophy.  In layman’s terms, “How does God feel about your vaping?”  Firstly, I won’t presume to be an authority on how God “feels” about this thing or that… but I can point out a few obvious points that might provide us all with a window into the infinite knowledge of the Lord.  It was St. Thomas Aquinas who adapted the philosophies of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates to the Christian World of the Middle Ages.  St. Thomas (and by extension the big three Ancient Greek Philosophers) who taught the virtues of moderation.  Socrates himself championed the cause of moderation in his teaching and through the example of his own living.  Christ himself drank wine in moderation.  St. Thomas’ treatises on temperance suggest even more support of the practice of moderation in a way that is especially applicable to E-cigarettes in contemporary times.  The Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas, taught that the soul functions in a corrupt manner when it suffers from addiction as contrasted to it’s proper, unhindered functioning.  We can see this very clearly in the life of a tobacco addict.  While the proper functioning of the soul in our day and age would normally involve paying bills on time, giving charitably to others, following a healthy living regimen, saving money for unforeseen circumstances and retirement, etc, the addicted soul (focusing on cigarettes, specifically for the purposes of this article) prioritises the financial requirements of maintaining an expensive supply of overly-taxed cigarette packs.  Bills are paid late, health suffers, charitable donations are reduced or eliminated in favor of supporting the tobacco habit, and savings are minimal or non-existent.  Vaping actually alleviates all of these issues, more or less.  In fact, the practice of vaping electronic cigarettes would appear to be the very definition of moderation.  A vaper is moderating their nicotine expenditures and their actual nicotine dosage (especially when weaning down towards fewer milligrams of nicotine content in their E-juices).

In addition to the aforementioned theological and philosophical concepts regarding the practice of E-liquid vaping, we also have Christ’s Golden Rule, and by extension, Kant’s Categorical Imperative.  The Golden Rule states that we are to do unto others what we would have done unto ourselves.  Would we like it if someone took a life-saving device away from us?  Would we appreciate it if suddenly the very thing that saved us from almost certain death was suddenly made infinitely more difficult or impossible to get a hold of without acting illegally?  Of course, the Golden Rule suggests the Sado/masochist paradox (The masochist says, “hurt me,” and the sadist says, “no.”  Go ahead… get the laughs out of your system.  It’s supposed to be funny.)  It is possible that maybe we don’t know what we would have others “do unto us.”  Or maybe what we would have done unto us is actually harmful.  The Categorical Imperative attempts to address this paradox by stating that one should act “as if each and every action were to establish a maxim of behavior for all of society.  In this case, we must ask ourselves, “If we were to support the over-regulation of something that has been proven to save lives and help people to moderate their desires, spend less money frivolously, and to improve the overall health of their bodies and minds… would we be willing to tell everyone on Earth that they must always support the over-regulation of everything that has the same effects on the populace?  Would we, for example, like to see the whole world suddenly attempt to regulate the usage of Tylenol because those who quit drinking use it to stave off the withdrawal symptoms?  I think not!

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