March 26, 2014

Ask Anthony: Are E-Cigarettes Bad for Us?


Anthony is pretty much an expert on everything.

Dear Anthony,

I’ve made the switch over to e-cigarettes, and now I’ve been hearing that the “e-liquid” extracted from tobacco is a neurotoxin. Is this bad for my health? I thought I was making the right choice here. I mean, they regulate this stuff, right?

~ Puffing in Pasadena

Dear Puffing,

When I was a kid, there were five of us. Gary Glenn was our hero. He had a beard. He worked with my dad, but was young and had an enormous heart. He laughed all the time. I was looking around for Gary one day, and my mom said he was up at the barn. It was mid December, and cold out, but I asked if I could go find him anyway.

Mom hesitated. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked.

She relented, and I was off like a rounded pebble from my much-loved slingshot. I walked the ten minutes to the barn, and there was nobody around. The barn was locked. But I knew a side door. I took it. In the barn was a pile of stuff, most of it still in bags. But on top, there was an enormous stuffed teddy bear.

(Let me take a moment here to underline that this was before styrofoam-ball-filled, cheap stuffed animals. A giant stuffed teddy bear was a luxury item back then, buddy. And a giant stuffed teddy bear was the only thing my big sister Sue wanted for Christmas. This had to be a pile of our Christmas gifts.)

This was the shit that Santa was going to bring.

I told myself that the elves had come and left the stuff here in the barn to make it easier for delivery. I mean we couldn’t expect Santa’s sleigh to carry every damn toy he was going to deliver all at once, could we? They would never all fit. I got to see my unreasonable desire for life to be the way I wanted it take control of my intellect. I knew the truth, yet my mind made up a story to preserve a reality I preferred…


In Nilsson’s “The Point,” Oblio encounters the Rock Man. And the Rock Man said:

“That’s just it. The thing is, you see, what you want to see. And you hear, what you want to hear.”

Do you feel me, here?

The human brain is a network of over 100 billion neurons. Yet we are still idiots.

In my years on the planet, I’ve encountered some seriously stupid people. I once dated a woman, briefly, who liked to wear socks on her ears. Thankfully she kept this practice at home. I met a man once who thought the New York Giants were real.  I’ve known people who thought that waving a live chicken around their heads would absolve them of sins. Seriously. But no individual idiocy can rival our collective brainlessness. As an antidote, watch “Cosmos,” like right away.

“We hunger for significance. For signs that our personal existence is of special meaning to the universe. To that end, we’re all to eager to deceive ourselves. To discern a sacred image in a grilled cheese sandwich.”

~ Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “Cosmos,” Episode 3

We are not alone. As a species, we want to believe that we are being taken care of. Looked after. Watched over. Even when, say, we end sentences with prepositions, we keep hoping that our health and well-being live as priorities in the hearts of sundry overlords.

God, the president, the Surgeon General, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms…pick an authority. They’ve all let liquid nicotine by.  We have no idea how toxic the stuff is. But we do know it is seriously toxic.

So no, Puffster. They are not regulating this stuff. At all. It’s a crap shoot out there, and some e-liquids are so deadly that drinking one teaspoon full would be fatal to a full-grown adult. Think lethal poison. This stuff is ugly like your mother-in-law ugly. Ugly—like fracking ugly. Like that girl in the bar that night, and you were so drunk and lonely ugly.

Sorry to be the one to have to break it to you. I’ve got nothing but love for you.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons

Photos: elephant archives 


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