Our country spent decades being able to smoke in restaurants, airplanes, classrooms and even doctors’ offices. Progress meant being able to pick a nonsmoking room at a hotel. It took far too long and millions of lives were claimed for years, but we have finally adopted some tobacco policies that put public health ahead of profits — profits to Big Tobacco. These policies were made possible only because people in power began listening to science.

Fifteen years ago, people argued that making a business or establishment 100% smoke-free took away people’s freedoms. Today, society has accepted that there is no benefit that outweighs the damage of allowing people to smoke in an enclosed space. Society has paid attention to the endless data about how many people die from smoking and secondhand smoke. We see the commercials warning that smoking makes people lose money, opportunities, organs, health and family members. Society has also refused to turn a blind eye at how much money the tobacco industry pays to advertise to children, how much money they spend on lobbyists, and how they have essentially sold their souls to the devil to keep making profits.

When will we learn our lesson? The exact same people that brought us to our knees from cigarettes are trying to sell us another addictive substance that has already put people in the hospital, exploded in pockets, been advertised to youth, caused numerous lung problems, and yet goes unregulated and also untaxed. Did you quit smoking by switching to vaping? Good for you. I’m glad I don’t have to smell cigarettes on you anymore. But don’t pretend that it’s safe. And don’t pretend that the money you spent isn’t lining the pockets of the most powerful industry in our nation.

Maggie Ballard

Omaha

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