Vaping is Big Tobacco's bait-and-switch

I was 15 when I started smoking, and so were most of my friends. We smoked to rebel against our parents but also to identify with them - of course they smoked, even as they told us not to. We smoked because it was feminine and sexy, and also masculine and tough. Because celebrities did it, and they looked cool. Because the prissy kids did not do it, and we were not them. Because cigarettes were both forbidden and easy to get: 10 quarters in a cigarette vending machine, which you could still find in most pizza joints and doughnut shops in suburban New Jersey in the early 1990s.

All of that - the appeal, the access, the illicitness of cigarettes - was by design. By the time my friends and I were born, cigarette makers had stitched their products into the fabric of our culture so thoroughly that not even a century's worth of research tying those products to an array of slow, painful deaths was enough to deter many of us.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2019, with the headline 'Vaping is Big Tobacco's bait-and-switch'. Print Edition | Subscribe