Tribune Editorial: Straining on a vape. Swallowing an AR-15

File - In this Aug. 28, 2019, file photo, a man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette in Portland, Maine. The U.S. government has refined how it is measuring an outbreak of breathing illnesses in people who vape, now counting only cases that are most closely linked to electronic cigarette use. Health officials on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019 said 380 confirmed cases and probable cases have been reported in 36 states and one U.S. territory. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”

Matthew 23:24

Open with an updated version of an old joke:

A man is standing under a street lamp at night, apparently looking around for something he had dropped. A passer-by inquires about what he is doing.

“I dropped my phone.”

"Right here?'

“No, over in the alley.”

“Then why are you looking here?”

“The light is better.”

Members of the Utah Legislature, Utah’s congressional delegation and the president of the United States are all calling for various steps to be taken to put an end to what appears to be an outbreak of illness, and a few deaths, related to e-cigarettes. Also known as “vaping.”

Meanwhile, recurring waves of calls for First World regulations on firearms, including a ban on military-style assault weapons, go up in, well, smoke.

This as the death toll of vaping has reached, maybe, six people, the number of lives taken by firearms in a quiet afternoon.

The difference being that, for public officials who want to be seen as protecting their constituents, vaping is where the light is better.

E-cigarettes are relatively new, favored mostly by the young and politically powerless and their industry associations are mere shadows of the National Rifle Association.

And the recent news about vapes is pretty scary. Several hundred cases of severe heart and lung infection are thought to be related to vaping. The Centers for Disease Control and various state agencies are on the case, but so far it has been hard to pin down the exact cause — if there is one particular cause — of the apparent outbreak.

There is some reason to believe that a common element in at least some of the cases is that the dangerous materials vaporized were not in the factory-sealed items marketed under big brand names, but the vape equivalent of Prohibition bathtub gin. Maybe with THC added to the mix.

Public officials of the Marlboro Man generation, including the president, Sen. Mitt Romney and Utah state Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, are calling for actions that include recalling all vaping products, banning them, or at least ending the practice of adding sweet and fruit flavors that are reasonably seen as an enticement to get teens and children hooked on vapes.

And, make no mistake, addiction is the point.

Standard-issue vaping capsules are basically nicotine delivery systems, invented with the idea that people addicted to old-fashioned cigarettes could sate their addiction without also inhaling - and polluting their environment with - tar and cyanide and all the other harmful chemicals emitted in regular tobacco smoke.

So, yes, crack down on illegal vaping by children. Ban candy flavoring. Do all that can be done to push e-cigarettes back to their original function as a medical intervention for long-time, hard-core tobacco users, not a gateway to addiction for a generation of non-smokers.

Those are the right things to do.

It’s just sad that much of those efforts will be seen as smoking hypocrisy when advocated by people who won’t do anything about the plague of firearms upon the land.

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