Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 17, 2014

Smoking

What is — or is not — safe for others to inhale?

Does anyone else detect a note of irony in recent developments involving things that are made to be smoked? (And we’re not referring to pork shoulders.)

At the same time the Maryland General Assembly is giving serious consideration to the decriminalization of marijuana, it also is taking steps to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places.

Unlike some of the man-made substances people consume for what has been described as “recreational” purposes, marijuana and tobacco occur naturally (as do the plants that are used to produce heroin, cocaine, coffee, tea and alcoholic beverages).

They are planted and grow to maturity, people harvest them and begin to light them up and puff on them after drying them out.

Marijuana was referred to as “hemp” when it was planted in this area during World War I, and it was used for making rope. Even after people no longer cultivated it, it continued to grow wild.

Word of this got out a couple of decades ago, and people began coming here from the big city to harvest what grew along the Potomac River.

The irony of this, police told us at the time, was that an entire trash bag of this stuff contained less of the active wacky-weed ingredient THC than could be found in one average marijuana cigarette. Most of it has been eradicated by now.

There are advocates of both marijuana and e-cigarettes, as well as detractors. Smoking tobacco in public places is generally banned, and for good reasons.

Research indicates strongly that inhaling someone else’s tobacco smoke is harmful. There are similar concerns about second-hand marijuana smoke, and they will have to be addressed in light of the fact that pot-smoking is increasingly being legalized or decriminalized across America.

Research indicates that emissions from e-cigarettes pose no apparent health risks to innocent bystanders — which doesn’t mean there is no risk. E-cigarettes undoubtedly help some people quit smoking regular cigarettes. However, they do contain substances that are harmful — at least to those who use them.

Unless and until it can be proven conclusively that e-cigarettes prove no hazard to those who happen to be nearby, the Maryland General Assembly is right to regulate where and when they can be used.

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