Who's afraid of electronic cigarettes?
Hard to say. On Tuesday I wrote about my concerns over the state's two biggest newspapers-the Wisconsin State Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-writing what amounted to fancy press releases for a local company that makes the "smoke juice" that goes into electronic cigarettes.
I'm pretty sure that piece has generated the most direct emails and comments of anything I've written since coming to The Daily Page.
Aside from wondering why this issue seems to press people's buttons more than, say, the recession or elections or wars or oil spills, it's been interesting to read the various arguments for and against both what I had to say and the e-cigs in general.
Lots of people took issue with my relying so heavily on the FDA and AMA warnings about the potentially toxic ingredients in e-cigs, and I'll be the first to admit that the FDA, at least, isn't always the most reliable or scientifically rigorous organization (to say the least) upon which to base one's arguments.
I should have done more digging before writing that first piece, and that's precisely what I've been doing in the meantime. Thing is, there really isn't that much in the way of solid research out there to either refute or support my initial concerns in terms of what all ingredients go into the product and how they're then regulated.
What I have come to understand better, however, is that there are lots of people who seem to have made marked life improvements by switching from so-called analogue smokes to the e-cigs. There does seem to be something to the argument that e-cigs help people save money and their health, the latter by cutting out combustion-one of the major elements that leads to the myriad negative effects of smoking. That's certainly good, and I'd generally be supportive of something that helps people clean up the air around them and in their own lungs.
The trouble I still have with all of this, though, is the lack of comprehensive research into and appropriate regulation of the product. I've said this time and time again. It does not stem from a desire to see Big Tobacco or Big Pharma make more money by cutting out something that could be serious competition for their respective smoking-related products. Quite the opposite, in fact. If good research showed that e-cigarettes were actually an even mildly safer alternative to their analogue counterparts, I would support their manufacture and sale under appropriate regulation.
But that research does not yet seem to exist. Even the ardently pro-e-cig people who've been commenting on my initial article agree with that, as they point out the flaws in the FDA's own studies and the lack of evidence, one way or another, in general.
What I find so disturbing in all of this is people's willingness to jump to one extreme or another: the FDA's knee-jerk anti-e-cig advocacy after what, now that I've looked at it further, amounted to a fairly flimsy set of results regarding a few cartridges from China, but also some of the e-cig advocate's insistence that these things are the end-all-be-all, and that any criticism or call for further research and regulation of them amounts to telling people to switch back to regular cigarettes.
Which is, pardon my French, complete BS.
It's a similar line of BS to what some of the raw milk proponents in Wisconsin are arguing (not all, but some). Whereas I would support a balanced approach involving strict health and safety regulations and keeping the product out of non-farm stores, there are plenty who believe any resistance to complete and total legalization of the stuff amounts to being anti-small farm and overly Big Brotherly.
But actually it's just an attempt to strike a balance between ensuring public safety and fair treatment, and allowing people to make their own choices about the things they want to put into their bodies.
All of this is to say that I'll willingly backtrack on my enthusiastic touting of some of the FDA's protestations against e-cigarettes, but also stand firmly by my initial desire to see more serious time spent researching them and applying the appropriate regulations. Nicotine, even without the accompanying tar and combustion of the traditional cigarette, is still a serious drug linked to everything from increased cancer development to birth defects.
Banning e-cigs outright isn't the answer. Neither is allowing them to proliferate without oversight, or glossing over their own adverse side effects.
State Supreme Court unable to see difference between gay marriages and civil unions
This is disappointing:
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld Wisconsin's ban on gay marriage and civil unions.
In a 7-0 vote Wednesday morning, the court decided a 2006 constitutional amendment was properly put to voters.
A lawsuit claimed the amendment violated a rule that limits referendums to a single subject. The 2006 ballot asked voters two questions: whether to limit marriage to a man and a woman, and whether to outlaw any similar legal status for unmarried individuals.
The lawsuit, filed by voters opposed to the amendment, argued gay marriage and civil unions are two different subjects.
Justice Michael Gableman said both "carry out the same general purpose of preserving the legal status of marriage in Wisconsin as between only one man and one woman."
The trouble with this is that the full marriage rights currently conferred on any heterosexual couple that feels like wandering into a courthouse but denied to all homosexual couples are very different from the very limited set of legal arrangements that can be gotten via civil unions or domestic partnership agreements.
That is: Gay marriage and civil unions/partnerships are substantially different from one another. Obviously I'm not a Supreme Court Justice, nor have I worked to attain an even remotely similar level of training and legal education for which I have enormous respect but this seems like a fairly common sense issue to me.
The amendment effectively banned both standard marriages for gays and lesbians, something that was already the case in Wisconsin, while also eliminating the chance for civil unions. The latter, a not-at-all equal situation but certainly better than nothing, had previously been a potential to be explored. After the amendment passed, however, that potential was struck down.
Two questions. One amendment. Kind of illegal.
Unfortunately, at this point Wisconsin's main recourse toward living up to its progressive and egalitarian ideals is to put the issue to another statewide vote. If there's any hope of that vote overturning the amendment and making this a place where all citizens truly are equal under the law, we've got several years of serious and heartfelt work to do first. The tide is turning, but it needs more nudging.
In a blog post today, [the Daily Kos' Markos] Moulitsas accused the polling firm Research 2000, which it has hired to conduct weekly opinion polls for the past year and a half, of essentially making up its data: "We were defrauded by Research 2000, and while we don't know if some or all of the data was fabricated or manipulated beyond recognition, we know we can't trust it."
That would be the same polling firm used by a whole slew of other media outlets, including our very own WISC-TV and the Wisconsin State Journal. I foresee the potential for serious ramifications / ripples from all this, and will be very curious to see how our local, aforementioned news sources deal with it all.