Most people know that e-cigarettes are technically illegal to own or sell and dangerous to use. That hasn’t stopped the deadly drug devices from becoming America’s black-market drug of choice. Today the U.S. government adopted rules allowing e-cigarettes to be sold legally for the first time. It remains to be seen, however, whether e-cigarettes will make the leap of faith required to become a legal product. There are reasons to think that can’t happen.
E-cigarettes were in trouble already. Most e-cigarette drugs were manufactured in unlicensed chemical plants in China, but in a crackdown two months ago, authorities seized inventory and jailed executives. If any e-cigarette factories remain in operation in China, it is only because no one knows where they are. In a similar way, no one quite knows what chemicals go into e-cigarettes. The formulas have been a closely guarded secret, but there is no reason to imagine that they are anything more than the cheapest chemicals a criminal enterprise can buy. Under new U.S. regulations, manufacturers have to disclose ingredients and prove that the final product is safe. It is a foregone conclusion that there won’t be any applications filed for the current black-market products. Many of the products will continue to be made and sold, but they will start to disappear from the public eye.
My hope is that this is the beginning of the end for e-cigarettes. The world hasn’t been made better by the introduction of a deadly new commercial recreational drug. It is a morally weak position to look at the inevitable drug deaths from e-cigarettes and say, “Well, that is the cost of an addictive drug.” Morally, the stronger position is if the deadly recreational drug is not turned into a commercial product at all.