Let's put something on the table right off the bat: There's no such thing as a safe cigarette, and anyone who'll tell you otherwise is just blowing smoke.
The latest gimmick aimed at smokers is something called an electronic cigarette, a battery-powered device that looks like a cigarette, but uses no flame and emits a mist instead of smoke.
These things come in flavors, like chocolate and fruit, and if that's not aimed at younger folks then I don't live in Montana.
Using careful language, the folks selling e-cigarettes try to pretend their product is somehow healthier than, or at least not as bad for you as, traditional cigarettes. One of them even advertises that you can be "in control" of your cravings because now you can "smoke anywhere and anytime."
That's like getting "control" of your drinking by being able to drink any time and anywhere. I believe we call those folks alcoholics.
Now the FDA is getting involved, warning consumers that these e-cigarettes are, in fact, plenty bad for you, smoke or no smoke. In recent lab tests, the FDA found that many electronic cigarettes contain toxins and carcinogens, including a key ingredient in antifreeze.
That's in addition to the harmful and addictive nicotine, which is as big a part of most e-cigarettes as regular cigarettes. And even e-cigarettes that claimed to be nicotine-free had low levels of it in those FDA tests.
So, on the one hand, the FDA is warning us that these are dangerous products. They've stopped some shipments of these devices, many of which come from China, at the border. They've even classified them as a drug-delivery device, which would force them into regulation, and declared that they are now being marketed illegally because they have not been approved by the FDA.
But the FDA hasn't ordered a recall and isn't doing anything to halt the sales of most of these things, which can be found in mall kiosks across the nation and are readily available online.
It's a confusing and schizophrenic approach, but sadly not all that unusual for an organization run by Washington bureaucrats.
There's little dispute over cigarettes. They're bad for you. They can cause cancer, emphysema, high blood pressure and more. They can even lead to erectile dysfunction.
Taking away the smoke and replacing it with some kind of fruit-flavored mist doesn't make them safer or better, only dangerously different.